Breaking away from the shackles of shame and stigma, these children of sex workers from Sonagachi, the biggest red light area in Asia, are kicking away all kinds of discrimination. Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (colloquially called Durbar) has provided them with opportunities they otherwise would not have gotten.
Pradip Saha, a 15-year-old aspiring footballer, who has been training at Durbar’s sports academy for the last five years told The Logical Indian “I have been given a lot of support. Durbar has given me everything I need, starting from clothes to food to football. When I grow up, I want to be a great footballer.” There are many other children of sex workers and people from the marginalised sections of society in the academy.
Started as a committee, now a shelter and academy
Durbar started as a support committee for sex workers in Sonagachi in 1992. In 2001, they found a shelter home for the people who were trying to get away from the stigma that society attaches to sex workers. Dr Smarajit Jana is the founder of the home.
While talking to The Logical Indian, Biswajit Majumdar, their coach says, “A few years back, Dr Jana called me and asked me to be their physical education teacher. I came with a football and wanted to see how they play.”
He further adds “I am an ex-footballer and when they started playing with the ball I realised that some of them had the skill and talent. It is then I told Dr Jana that I want to teach them football formally and he agreed at once.” He is not the only one who coaches them. Arya Basu Roy, Sujit Mallik, Deepak Roy and Indrajeet Mitra along with Bishwajit coach the football team.
Soon, the opportunity to play football was not limited to the children of the sex workers. They inculcated children from different spheres of life. Children who had abusive parents, orphans and also kids coming from financially backward families were given the opportunity to play.
“We wanted these children to be integrated into society. Hence, we realised that keeping them segregated from others will not help. So, we asked other kids to join, and the response was great,” Biswajit said.
Breaking the stigma
The stigma that these kids face was slowly erased by the cheers of football. Biswajit along with the kids propositioned the Indian Football Association to let their team play in the U-12 Nursery league in 2013. “We were unbeaten. Then we moved forward to the national league,” he says.
They got the opportunity in 2016 to go to Denmark for a championship. It was a difficult time for them. Even though their travel and accommodation were taken care of by the authorities in Denmark, they still needed a lot of money for expenses such as football kits and shoes etc.
“Many people helped us out at that time, and we all went to Denmark. We lost in the quarterfinals but we were not disheartened. Everybody appreciated our boys and their skills. Even we are very proud of them,” says Bishwajit.
He says that they are getting invitations from many countries, but they can’t afford to pay for any further trips. They are facing quite a financial crunch right now.
“We need support, and we need sponsors. These kids have dreams, and we want them to dream big. Our organisation has strived continuously to bring these children out of a stigmatised society, and by far we have been successful. Now, we need financial assistance to fly to different countries so that these children can play in international leagues and make a name for themselves,” says Bishwajit.
The Logical Indian appreciates the efforts of Durbar academy which has been a continuous source of love and support for these kids. We hope that whatever financial crunch they are going through now is resolved soon and these children get to play in the international leagues that they are invited for.
Also Read: At Kolkata’s Sonagachi, It’s a Graveyard of Life And Living
With #MySocialResponsibility, we aim to bring you more inspiring stories of individuals and organisations across the globe. If you also know about any changemakers, share their story at [email protected] and we'll spread the word.