Hello everyone, things are slowly improving here in Kolkata for me. The process of getting comfortable in a new country, that speak a language you seriously don’t know, and a culture that is much different then anything I’ve ever experienced has started to all grow on me. I’m still not okay with everyone staring at me. I mean people in particular the men, just stare bluntly at you and sometimes they are not staring at your face..
I’m starting to see a pattern. It’s so normal to repress people of sexual sentiments here and maybe all of India. Which this has and is causing people to behave here a bit more “crazy”. Like talk to you as they stare at your breast or try to slide their hand over your behind in a metro by “accident”. I’m not trying to criticize, but just state an observation from my personal experience here. I’m just noticing that bollywood dancing is super sexual, but men and women are not allowed in some places to talk to each other. Or women are looked down at wearing shorts even though the mall sells many shorts. Women here seem to be paranoid of attracting sexual attention of any kind because it might be taken as advances towards men. India has many wonderful traits and yes the people here are super kind and nice, but my observation I stated above is an issue I have found. My friend from Kolkata has told me things are slowly improving. He did tell me young people are starting to understand the concept of dating. He further discussed with me that as a society the concept of consent really needs to be discussed and practiced. India isn’t the only country facing crucial problems with concent or rape culture in general. It’s sad to be reminded that 1 in 3 women are raped. So far, I’ve met plenty of women and young girls that have. There is obviously more to this, not just sexual repression but the idea of manhood and womanhood. Again this is something the world is facing.
Ok enough of this sad but so true talk, let’s now start getting into my week three! My project for my internship is starting to be fully developed, which is super exciting. Today (Sunday my time), I’ll be getting my first of my project on paper with another intern. We will be combining our project for the young teens. We will mix body image and health together by doing activities with the young girls.
So us interns were able to visit the final homes and one of the main projects New Light has. I’ll start with the project. So this is is one of the women empowerment projects.
To empower women sometimes can be hard but New Light has found creative avenues for women in Kolkata to have alternative means of having an income. These are women who have decided to leave the sex trafficking industry or are trying to protect themselves from being persuaded to join. The women here don’t make anywhere near what they could in the sex industry, which just makes this even more powerful. I want to seriously get to know this group of women. I want to know their stories and their ambitions.
Now you are probably wondering what in the world do these women do. These women make biodegradable sanitary napkins (pads). It’s a fascinating process to watch. The project is fairly new, maybe a year old if that. The new women work/train for 2 hours a day while the women with more experience work 4 hour shifts. Every 2 hours the women can make from 80 to 100 sanitary napkins (pads). The women training were on the floor tearing what felt and looked like poster board materiel into small pieces. These pieces would eventually be used to make the pads. The pictures below just give a small glimpse of the process.
Now you have an overview of what these women do on a daily basis. It’s incredible that there are organizations such as New Light that are trying to find alternative methods of helping women become financially independent. They don’t just rescue the girls and give them money and bam let them free, but they treat each girl and women like a seed. They nourish each seed with the right amount of water and sunlight so when they are ready to become beautiful flowers, New Light let’s them go. Of course not just a “bye I’ll never see you again” but a “see you later” kind of way.
Two other homes and more new faces
To finish out the week us interns were taken to the final two homes that New Light has. One was a hostel like home that was offered for young adults who were now out of the child system but still needing guidance. This home has girls from the ages 18 to 23. They are all in college with a goal in mind. Each girl accomplishing their goals and aiming for high ambitions. One girl spoke and out her dream, of being a fashion designer/stylist. As she shared her dream she kept smiling. This is what organizations need to be aiming for. To help the vulnerable achieve a dream that seemed so far away. An intern and now friend told me that it’s not the institution that makes the change, but the people who have the power to make the change. She further told me that people see the potential in others that allow both people to grow and progress. At first I argues with her on this. I thought there needs to be institutions for change to occur, but she is right an institution or an organization is nothing for not the people in them.
The other homes where for girls finishing up what I would consider middle school and high school. In this home we really weren’t there long enough to actually speak with the girls. We were there for maybe 15 minutes. I can understand that these girls need to be more protected then the rest.so I wasn’t really expecting much at this shelter.
This week hasn’t only been about intense situations that normal people don’t see in a daily basis, but about personal growth and getting to know others. And just as an inside scope on my health I did get sick again, which was quick and not so painful haha. Anyways, this past week I told myself, even though I’m low on money and my account is frozen I need figure out ways of being more independent and not relying on everyone for help. I started to ride the busses, regardless if there is AC or not. I know I need to put on my big girl pants and try. So I’ve learned the bus system from my apartment to the main shelter. It’s great! I get to see Kolkata in a different way. The ticket men are helpful and the bus is so cheap! Less than a dollar. I’ve taken pictures of the traffic from the bus, riding the bus is a completely different experience. Also the buses don’t stop for anyone but a red light, so watch out and they will squeeze into any small space to move around the cars or tuk tuks.
Friday night, I went out with two interns (jessica and Zoë) who I’ve come to respect and enjoy their company and I went out with my friend from Kolkata, Nil. (The one who helped out last weekend at the police station…check last week’s post to understand) He took us to a bar/restaurant. We were there for several hours discussing politics to movies and even discussing books. The conversation never got dull. To be honest the best part of this was the hot brownie and ice cream I ate. Wow it was amazing. I’m not really a drinker nor was one of the interns so we devoured our ice creams.
Probably the best thing about this week was the new intern that now lives with me. She (Sol) isn’t in the photo. It’s only been two days but I feel like she has already helped broaden my thinking. Sol’s from Australia so of course she has an awesome accent. But the coolest part is she has a little of so many ethnicities and cultures in her. She has challenged my thinking and giving me many issues to think about. No wonder she is about to be a human rights lawyer. She was the intern/now friend who gave me the wise words I shared about change and institutions earlier in my blog. It’s amazing the people God continues to put in my life. I’m a already feeling emotional and physical shifts/change about myself and the way I see the world. (Dr. Miller would really like this intern, seriously they think so much alike)
Oh and one last thing. I am taking Zumba classes that have been kicking my butt.
Well I think this week there was a lot to say. I hope you enjoyed reading, till next time.