Rehabilitation Programme: SNEHA, Sanlaap’s Shelter Home

Sneha (lit. ‘Affection’) was started to address the primary need expressed by the women in prostitution when SANLAAP started working with them – ‘protection of their girl children from the violence of prostitution which they experienced day in and day out for want of a place to go – a secure and safe shelter’.

Sneha houses more than 150 girls who are :

  • Rescued girl children from commercial sexual exploitation who are handed over to SANLAAP under the ‘SWADHAR’ GOI programme.
  • Girl children of women in prostitution.
    • One care home takes in very young girls in the age group of 0-18 yrs
    • Another care home takes girls in the age group of 18+ yrs.
  • The working girls hostel is a transit home for the girls who have been initiated into the process of rehabilitation and reintegration into the mainstream society. The girls living in the hostel are those who have been either placed in different jobs (outside SANLAAP’s sphere) or involved in SANLAAP’s in house production units and enterprises.

Sneha is not just a Shelter Home wherein children are provided with basic education and facilities of food and accommodation. Sneha is actually a complex inter-related multi-disciplinary psychosocial and economic rehabilitation programme in itself.

It is a holistic programme encompassing Education, Mental Health Interventions, Vocational Training and Economic Initiatives, Dance Movement Therapy (Sanved) and Legal Aid (Salah).

Rescue, rehabilitation, restoration, repatriation and reintegration – all these processes are interwoven and find their passage and reflection at Sneha.


Most of the girls have been away from their homes and schools during their prime years and hence have been denied access to education. Some of them have never attended school and some of them are drop -outs. To bring the girls into the mode of attending school, learning alphabets, numbers and making them socially aware is quite a task.

Some of the girls from the shelter homes are attending formal school. Since the rest of them have legal restrictions on their mobility, non-formal education support is being provided to them in an exclusive school built within the shelter home campus itself.

Computer training is also being imparted to those who have shown interest to learn the same. The principles of Touch therapy are playing a significant role in this training.

In order to address the question of the basic right to education which was being denied to the children because of the limitations imposed on their movement due to court cases and bonds. Sanlaap formed a committee to advise on their continued education.

Mental Health Intervention Programme for survivors of trafficking

The Mental Health Intervention Program works towards mainstreaming via healing and capacity building. The program focuses on the emotional and mental health needs as well as in building an information base for the individual so as to empower her as she returns to her community and society at large.

Issues like Gender and Sexuality which are related to trafficking are addressed through Group Intervention.

Broader issues concerning all the girls are handled by forming and conducting sessions through the following groups:

  • Prefect group addresses issues of Child Participation, developing ownership at the shelter, taking control of their own lives by building qualities of leadership, responsibility, confidence etc.
  • HIV support group looks at the individual needs of those sero positive girls living at the shelter home. It addresses issues of HIV/AIDS, what it is, how does it affect a person’s body and issues of health care and has also created a space of support wherein they have learnt to deal with trauma of being positive, the fear of death and rejection.

To consolidate this effort, the family counselling programme was initiated wherein the guardians or other family members are asked to attend a counselling programme once a month, at Sneha, where they would be educated on care and support of sero-positive people, so that they could take better care of their children at home.

  • Advocacy group provides a platform for creating youth advocates from amongst the residents through imparting and sharing of information, generating awareness on issues related to gender, sexuality, violence and issues that we feel might be encountered by the girls in the process of re-integration.
  • Issue addressal group, which is a common ground for conflict resolution. If something significant happens between 2 girls or likewise between a girl and a staff member, it is discussed during these sessions and the girls try to solve it amongst themselves. Through the issue based group we have tried to inculcate positive self-image, self-confidence, and the ability to take decisions for themselves and regarding their future amongst the girls. We do have girls now who are able to voice their opinions clearly and state what they want to do with their lives.
  • A Captain system has been devised to ensure the efficient running of the shelter home. Captains are selected based on their leadership qualities, co-operative nature and ability to handle difficult situations. This group of girls is responsible for running the shelter home. They are involved in taking decisions pertaining to Home Policy and Home Activities, organizing functions, seminars and workshops at the shelter home, attending to visitors and taking them for a tour around the shelter home and day-to-day maintenance of the Shelter home.

Through this program, we have also trained some of the girls to become Peer / Bare-foot counsellors. These girls are now able to help their peers resolve issues and problems at their level itself.

Vocational Training and Economic Initiatives

SRIJONI – production cum training unit. The girls at Sneha are motivated and geared up towards vocational training that they have a knack for.  After the girls get adjusted to living at Sneha, they are given the option of being a part of the vocational training courses such as tailoring, batik, embroidery, knitting and block printing, fashion designing which are run within the premises of Sneha.

Over the years, some of the girls after training have also been placed in various agencies (other than Sanlaap) in Kolkata at Canteen Management, Block Printing, Tailoring, Handicraft making etc.

Today we run a production unit to supply to our shop “HUB”.


What words cannot speak, rhythms can………

Sanved, the voice of SANLAAP, is a group of Performing Artists and Social Advocates, who are survivors of sexual violence and exploitation and use dance as a medium of portraying issues of gender and human rights.

For Sanved, dance is also a medium of Advocacy. Sanved transforms classical and contemporary languages of dance into issue – based performances to generate awareness and make people conscientious.

SALAH – Advocacy and Legal Aid…

The legal aid wing of SANLAAP is involved in the rescue of the girls from the red light areas and other vulnerable situations. The department also has the responsibility of ensuring the restoration and repatriation of the girls to their places of origin after proper background enquiry and family counselling so that the reintegration of the girls into their communities becomes a possibility.

Over the years, SANLAAP’s efforts through advocacy and liaison with policy makers and implementers has led to the recognition of children forced into prostitution and children of women in prostitution as separate categories of traumatized children.

Salah has been involved in orienting and sensitising the law enforcing agencies and the members of the judiciary as regards the issues of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.   We are also involved in training the Kolkata police personnel BSF and CISF on anti trafficking issues. In the year 2003, the issues of trafficking, violence against women and sexual harassment have been included into their curriculum.

Child Protection Programme

Every child who lives in the red light area is subjected to abuse. As they grow up, they begin to learn why the police must raid their homes twice or thrice a day, why they have to leave their homes when their mothers bring over buyers, why they must obey their mothers’ buyers when they ask them to bring alcohol; the confusion is blinding. The violence around, the sale and purchase of bodies and human lives around, the biggest hurdle to a healthy childhood are the premise of prostitution itself. Relationships, within the ambit of prostitution are based on exploitation, vulnerability and survival, and therefore very bare, bare of emotions and values.

To counter violation of child rights, SANLAAP runs Child Protection Programme in the red light areas of Kolkata and suburbs, through 14 Drop-in-Centres (DIC) with volunteers (full-time and part-time), catering to more than five thousand children.  The children are provided education, health services, and an opportunity to develop natural skills and creative faculties.  Above all children living in a vulnerable environment find in the DIC security and safety.

ICDS ­ Integrated Child Development Scheme

SANLAAP’s long-term dialogue with the Government resulted in the introduction of ICDS programme in the red light areas. SANLAAP is supposed to run 60 centres in Kolkata and already runs 37 such centres. The success of each of the programmes depends on the individual centres, the nature of the red light areas, the number of other organisations working, the efficiency of the ICDS centre and their staff, the support structure available from the family and the cooperation of the schools.

SOPAN (lit. Steps)

We motivate more and more women in prostitution to send their children to our drop-in-centres for education (non-formal and supplementary) and vocational training of various types according to the child’s need. Individual counselling and group based therapeutic sessions (music movement, art, need based support group etc.) are being carried out on a regular basis in the drop-in-centres.  Vulnerable children and children in need of special protection are identified and individual assistance and support is given according to the child’s need. The drop-in-centres also function as child protection units.  It is our space for constant monitoring of cases of trafficking that might go on in these red light areas.

Networking with the formal schools that the children from the red light areas are enrolled to, is necessary to monitor a child’s performance. Since every child living in the red light area is vulnerable to abuse, this monitoring is necessary to be able to recognize symptoms of a problem manifested through attentiveness and performance in academics, and participation in class.

SOPAN also provides non-formal education for those children and youth who have never been to schools, or have dropped out and may be too old to be reinstated. In the brothel areas SANLAAP also runs vocational training centre (e.g. jute, knitting, tailoring etc) for women in prostitution and older women.

Swaastha – The MEDICAL Programme

The medical programme attends to children identified by doctors and a para-medical attendants from the Government Hospitals.

The programme has broken the stronghold of the local quacks who operate in the red light areas. This was major business for the quacks since women in prostitution frequently suffer from abdominal pains related to urinary track infections, or excessive sex, or other disorders. The quacks would keep them under painkillers, and the women thinking that the doctors’ medicines are very effective would go back to them. The trick these quacks play is that they tear the tablets off the covers so that the women cannot use those foils to buy those tablets off the chemists’ counters, and would have to buy the tablets from them.

Youth Programme

The youth group programme of SANLAAP started in 1999 as an experiment with the drop out students from our Drop in centres in Bowbazar, Kalighat, and Khidderpore. During the initial phase informal discussions and workshops were held to gain an insight into the issues that concern them.  It was in the year 2002, that the programme actually got into full form. The following are the objectives of our Youth programme:


  • To make youth of the red light areas aware of their problems in terms of livelihood and economic security.
  • To install a sense of self-sufficiency among them.
  • To help them explore their inherent capacities.
  • To capacitate them to solve their local problems.
  • To provide impetus to discover their latent talent.

The group is also involved in organising workshops on specific issues like HIV/AIDS, Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, Health and other general problems in the areas. Over a period of time the members of the group have built their competency to identify problems within their areas and to suggest measures to overcome the same.

The experience gained and the lessons learnt in the process of building the Youth group led to the following two initiatives:


Intersect is derived from the Latin word ‘inters’ which means cross or cut each other. Sanlaap’s Intersect programme is a rendezvous for students of mainstream school and students from red light areas. The objective of this programme is to pave the path towards the integration of the youth of the red light areas with students of mainstream schools and colleges.

Due to the covert and avert attempts of the so-called mainstream society, which always tries to keep the youth of the red light areas at bay, they become completely isolated and withdrawn into their own cocoons. This further results in the feelings of insecurity, dilemma, lack of self-confidence, and inferiority complex amongst them and creates barriers for them to mingle with people beyond the boundaries of their red light areas.

The Intersect programme was to demolish these socially constructed boundaries. We have attempted to install in them a sense of belonging to the greater society instead of isolation. The initial activities started in 2002 with a small group and comprised activities of organizing programmes to mark the International Women’s Day, Violence against Women fortnight and different workshops, training’s, seminars, rallies on issues of Trafficking, Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, Child rights, Child abuse etc.

Considering theatre to be an effective medium of making a positive impact, the Intersect got together and staged a play “Judhistir er Jua o Aamra” on 27th August 2003. The script of the play was based on the inputs from a workshop organised for that purpose. The final production was preceded by vigorous rehearsal for six months. The production won much acclaim from both the media and the audience and went a long way in narrowing the social divide.

On a regular basis, meetings, workshops, dance/drama practice sessions, debate competitions and sharing sessions are held for Intersect.

As a future strategy, we have started to replicate the Intersect model in the different districts of West Bengal in close collaboration with our partners working in these districts, make strategic alliances with other National and International Youth organisations and start a Counselling programme for the youth which is run by the Intersect members.

Youth Partnership Programme in South Asia (YPP-SA)

SANLAAP has been implementing the the Youth Partnership Project for Child Survivors of Commercial Sexual Exploitation in South Asia (YPP) since 2005. The core objective of this project is to encourage, support and strengthen youth participation and partnership in the fight against commercial sexual exploitation of children. Young survivors of commercial sexual exploitation (CSEC) and at-risk youth living in red light districts, on the street or slums, are the key participants in this project.

Impact / Learning

  • The YPP is one of the examples of CSEC survivors and at-risk Youth playing an active role in the design, implementation, decision-making and monitoring of a project designed for their benefit.
  • Through the various YPP activities, CSEC survivors and at-risk youth after three years are using their knowledge and expertise to protect and advocate for the rights of children.
  • The Youth Partnership Project seeks to mitigate these feelings of helplessness of survivors of abuse and violence by empowering them so that they themselves are equipped to initiate dialogue and create platforms where their opinions are viewed with gravity and respect. There is a psychological shift in their perception of themselves from passive beneficiaries or victims to active citizens.
  • Significant qualitative changes with respect to confidence, self-esteem and other skills for life noted in the Young People engaged in this Project.

For more details visit the YPP website –


Our Right Is……. To Be Heard. Our belief …that we can bring about positive change by taking appropriate decisions and by making effective recommendations on issues that affect us.

YOU(TH) SPEAK in December 2006 was an attempt where young people discussed those issues that directly affect their lives and found gaps in the existing policies and practices. The 90 Youth delegates through Consultation came out with their set of recommendations to address these gaps and to ascertain better implementation. These recommendations were eventually placed before those people who hold positions of importance in the process of policy influencing and decision-making.


On 12th of August 2007, SANLAAP’s Youth Groups celebrated the World Youth Day at the GD Birla Sabhaghar. The Youth led Advocacy Initiative that was launched is called the Green Band Campaign.

This day was the initiation of the Campaign and was totally led by marginalized youth from the Red-light Areas of Calcutta, Survivors of Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation, Slum and Street Children and other at risk vulnerable Youth.

The Campaign was supported by eminent Theatre, Music, NGO and Government personalities from Calcutta. RANGAKARMEE (led by eminent theatre personality Ms. Usha Ganguly) and popular Bangla Music Band CHANDRABINDOO performed in the Launch Event. Mr. Sabhyasachi Chakraborty a noted actor of Feluda fame inaugurated the event.


16 young people from SANLAAP representing Youth living in marginalized existence and affected by abuse and exploitation participated in a Regional Consultation as part of the Youth Partnership Project, YPP  from 14th to 19th December 2007. The group is now closely associated with ECPAT activities in India and South Asia.

SUNDAR – “BEAUTIFUL” Support Group for Women in Prostitution (WIP)

The need to create a support group for women in prostitution came up for a number of reasons. Children of women in prostitution need a supportive environment from their parents. In most cases, they either do not have a responsible or a permanent father figure. Therefore, the child’s dependence on his or her mother increases manifold. But women in prostitution suffer from their own problems, of those of insecurity, constant abuse and exploitation and violence. As they age, their permanent clients or ‘babus’ may desert them, causing them severe psychological trauma and economic threat. In many situations, they may feel that their daughters’ best interests lies in getting them married at an early age so that they would not be caught into the life of stigma, which more often than not proves counter-productive.

Within the hubbub of the red light area, a woman in prostitution leads a strangely isolated life. In the struggle for survival, and with increasing cynicism, they may lose the strength and the dream they set out with, of protecting their child, of bonding with them. Their losing control over their own lives, and the threat of it, may cause them to act in impulse when it comes to the welfare of their children. It must be borne in mind that their exposure to life has been little outside the world of violence, since the age of 13 or 14.

It was with the intent of creating a space for these women, without any material incentive, that we initiated SUNDAR in 2002. In the initial phase, as one would expect, the group maintained a veneer of cordiality, but as it matured, they brought up issues that were deeply personal, linked with their past or present, their conflicts and insecurities.

During the Violence against Women fortnight in November 2003, they prepared a skit and sought a platform where they could talk about the violence of prostitution, of trafficking and of being women reduced to sexual merchandise. These women use the platform to ask for their rights.

Campaign Programme

The focus in the initial phases of Sanlaap’s work was to provide rehabilitation support to survivors who have been rescued and to prevent second generation from getting into prostitution in the red light areas. Slowly we realized the need to get into the source areas and carry out prevention activities in order to combat the challenge of trafficking. As a result we have started working in nine districts in West Bengal with the support of 27 Community Based Organisations. Our Campaign program addresses the issues of both Internal trafficking (within West Bengal and from West Bengal to different parts in India) and Cross Border Trafficking (from Bangladesh and Nepal to India). The following is a brief about the various activities that are being carried out as a part of our Campaign initiatives:

Awareness Generation

Sanlaap along with partner CBOs is continuously carrying out awareness generation programs on the issue of safe migration, trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, violence against women in a structured and a phased manner at the community level. We have now started designing and conducting programs, which involve religious leaders, community leaders, political leaders, school teachers, doctors (including quacks), Youth club members in this process and ensure community policing.

Sensitisation Programs

These programs are being organised for the Panchayat members, District administration personnel, law enforcing agencies and members of the judiciary.

A strong political will and efficient law enforcement will have an effective role in this combat against trafficking and this is what we are aiming to achieve through these programs. Also there is a dire need for the administration to recognize this issue as a priority concern and integrate it into their mainstream development programs.

As a result of these programs, Anti Trafficking task forces have been formed at the District level in some of the districts and efforts are on to form such task forces even at the Block and Gram Panchayat levels having representation from each of the above mentioned stakeholders.

Child Protection Units

We have set up more than 70 Child Protection Units in nine districts in West Bengal along with our partner organisations. A child protection unit is an integrated system, which caters to all sections of children and youth and provides the following:

  • Coaching Support to students who attend formal schools.
  • Non-formal education support to young children to prepare them and induct them into mainstream schools.
  • In cases where children do not fall under either of the above segments, it extends vocational training and ensures their skill building for livelihood purposes.

Capacity Building of CBOs

Sanlaap has been continuously conducting training programs to capacitate the CBO personnel to work on the issues of Trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. A series of trainings have been organised on topics ranging from Gender, Sex and Sexuality, HIV/AIDS, Migration and Trafficking, Legal issues, Care Givers, IEC Material etc. and also insights have been provided as to the manner in which the mandate of migration and trafficking can be introduced to the target group by these personnel through the medium of their existing programmes.