Young girls from troubled backgrounds in Delhi find a home to empower themselves through art and movie-making
A year ago, Meena (name changed), then aged 10 years, was sexually and physically abused by her step father, for the mere reason that the mother was not around to satisfy the man. Today, she has buried the ghost of her past and can expertly solve complex mathematical equations on the abacus. Suman, a deaf and mute girl, does not let her physical disabilities get in the way while expressing herself through art.
Meena and Suman are among the many girls who have found a shot at a dignified life, which in some cases, even their parents can’t provide, at Protsahan India Foundation, in west Delhi. Protsahan has about 250 children enrolled in its two centres at Vikaspuri and Uttam Nagar. The Vikaspuri centre is a drug abuse rescue centre for children and the Uttam Nagar centre caters to girls coming from the red light areas, families involved in the flesh trade, or children who are sexually and physically abused, mostly by their own kin. It works on empowering the children through creative arts, information technology, education, craft work and enables them to support themselves for a sustainable livelihood.
Protsahan boasts of many in-house movies and short films on issues of social relevance, all of which are written, directed and acted in by the students. The children have been trained through a movie-making module and their films show expert handling of camera and cinematography.
Started by Sonal Kapoor in 2010, a former ad film maker, whose encounter with a sex worker in a red light area, during one of her shoots, became the deciding factor in starting Protsahan. Fraught with extreme poverty, the woman was forced to send the eldest of her six children, an eight-year-old, to a red-light area. Meanwhile, pregnant with her seventh child, she admitted to Ms. Kapoor that if it was a girl again this time, she would strangle her just as soon as she would be born. Within an hour of the encounter, Sonal decided to open a creative arts school for sexually abused girls.
The centre at Uttam Nagar has a regular attendance now and has become a popular after-school centre for girls from around the neighbourhood. The children in both centres are taught many styles of art including Warli, Madhubani and Decoupage and are encouraged on experimenting with art. Most sketches and art works are often tales surrounding their personal and community lives. They have also launched a 10-month bridge course where children who have never been to school before and are directly admitted to classes IV or V, after the course.
Ms. Kapoor with her team presented Protsahan at ‘Project Inspire- 5 Minutes to Change the World’— a joint initiative of Singapore Committee for UN Women and MasterCard to help young change makers around the world working for welfare of women and girls around Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa, and won the top prize of US $25,000 among 577 participants from 60 countries.
“Currently we are in the process of launching the Australian chapter of Protsahan,” said Ms. Kapoor.