|projects & activities
Another Me: Transformation From Pain to Power
In a unique project conceived and put in place in Kolkata by the Terre des hommes Foundation (Lausanne, Switzerland), the documentary photographer Achinto Bhadra and counselor Harleen Walia guided 126 girls and women through a healing journey of psychological transformation. Achinto’s portraits record trafficking survivors’ imaginative visions of themselves as human, animistic and divine beings of power, love, revenge and freedom.
These are not stories of trafficking and prostitution. These are stories of vulnerability. They record how a child’s fragile web of protection is torn by domestic violence, the loss of a parent or an early marriage, and how that vulnerability is exploited by husbands, aunts and uncles, neighbours and finally, brothel owners. The stories take us beyond poverty as ‘the cause of trafficking’, for many of the children had happy, if poor, childhoods. Instead, we repeatedly see family dysfunction, village gossip, polygamy and misplaced trust resulting in a girl’s descent into an extremely vulnerable situation – from which the trafficker easily harvests her.
Their stories don’t dwell upon their lives in the brothel. Most didn’t want to talk about it. They wanted to tell how they came to it and what it did to them. These are stories of resiliency and of collapse. Some of the girls and women at Sanlaap have incredible power, struggling, pushing against a society that has exploited them; some are inert, mute, severely damaged by the brothel experience.
Many have spent years in the shelter after their rescue, victims of the law’s delay. Others are in the shelter because they have no safe place to go. They are too young, or perhaps mentally or physically challenged, or rejected by their families because they were prostitutes…or sought by their families so that they can be sent back into prostitution.
The South Asia Children’s Fund is working with the Terre des hommes Foundation (Lausanne, Switzerland) and Achinto Bhadra to bring Another Me to Catholic universities and colleges in the United States, beginning with Saint Louis University in Saint Louis, Missouri. Details of the exhibition will be posted on this website when they are confirmed.
For images of the Another Me project, see www.anotherme.org