Location: Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Name: Sohini Chakraborty
Date of profile: June 2012
Intervention: Dance Movement Therapy (DMT)
Aim: To use DMT as an alternative therapeutic tool for sexually abused and exploited girls and women and to also develop DMT as a livelihood option for some girls.
Background and context
Kolkata Sanved was founded in 2004 by Ashoka Fellow Sohini Chakraborty, a sociologist and dance activist. In 1996 Sohini, as a volunteer, started a dance project within Sneha (a shelter and care home for trafficked women and girls run by Sanlaap). Her experiments with dance proved that body movement, when used sensitively, could become a powerful tool for rehabilitation and advocacy. The success of Sohini’s work led to the establishment of Kolkata Sanved in 2004 with five founder members who were residents of Sneha.
Healing and recovery: Each Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) session starts with an introductory ritual which is geared towards consolidating the group. This is followed by a warm-up session or ‘body preparation’ and then the DMT activity starts. Often the activities start with body-mind coordination which can be important for working on balance, connecting each other, communication, building trust and confidence. From there they move onto ‘creative dancing’. The session ends with relaxation allowing the body and mind to relax, and a final ritual.
There are 20 girls in each group working with two trainers. Girls attend sessions weekly with each session lasting two hours. There is also a workshop session every month which lasts for six hours.
Training of trainers: For some girls, by participating in DMT, they are inspired to become trainers.
The training of trainers is attended by girls, in most cases survivors being supported by different organisations in West Bengal. The training is delivered to groups of 12- 15 girls over a two year period.
Kolkata Sanved’s self generated curriculum, Sampurnata(completeness/fulfilment) trains survivors to become peer educators, advocates, trainers and performers, enabling them to lead a life with dignity and respect.
Kolkata Sanved has trained 64 individuals to become trainers since 2005 (62 female and two male). This year Kolkata Sanved has started training 26 girls. According to Kolkata Sanved 30 of those who trained are now making a living through DMT.
The training is also open for non-survivors. Kolkata Sanved has an academy course for professionals as well as a distance learning course. Currently 15 professionals working in Mumbai who were trained by Kolkata Sanved are using DMT in the wider development sector.
Anecdotal reporting suggests that not only does DMT bring about positive changes in mind, body and spirit, but it also enables participants to interact with mainstream society on an equal footing. Reporting by the organisation suggests that DMT can:
Improve the behaviour of girls and reduce negative and self-destructive tendencies
Increase self-esteem and enable girls to talk about their experiences
Instil a positive attitude among girls so they are able to express dreams and hopes for a brighter future
Lead to a livelihood for some girls who can become trainers for different organisations (DMT as a form of creative therapy is new in West Bengal and India in general but organisations are gradually taking interest and the demand for trainers is growing.)
Non-discrimination and an individual response
There have been cases where girls take many months to respond to DMT and in those cases the girls are encouraged to sit and watch till they feel comfortable to join in. Girls are also able to explore movements that they choose and therefore sessions are individualised to each child. If a girl needs individual sessions or more support, then the shelter home is informed.
Sanved also work with boys in various situations. One programme ‘Platform Beat’ is for boys living in the railways stations and Kolkata Sanved also work with boys in a government shelter home.
From day one the participants are included in the process. The facilitators directly talk to the girls as they carry out the initial assessment. Each child is able to talk to the facilitator regarding her likes and especially her dislikes. The facilitators explain what DMT is and that sessions will include dance and movement. They also explain that DMT is not like doing Bollywood dance numbers or the traditional dance forms like Bharat Natyam.
After each activity there is a feedback session and at the end of the day there is another full feedback session so that the children can share their feelings and experiences. The next sessions are developed in response to the feedback to ensure the needs of the group are met.
In some cases staff from the shelter homes accompany children when they attend the DMT. Sanved also have an external psychotherapist to support girls if they have additional needs and to supervise all the members of staff. Kolkata Sanved also have their own child protection policy in place.
Sustainability and replication
The organisation is dependent on available funds and works in collaboration with other organisations. The training of trainers programme aims to train others to replicate this alternative form of therapy in organisations and with other children. To date Kolkata Sanved has carried out training in Bangladesh and Nepal in addition to different states across India including Maharashtra, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh.
Sanved is also advocating with the government for the institutionalisation of creative therapy and is hopeful that this process of institutionalisation would create a greater demand for DMT trainers and in turn provide employment opportunities for more of the girls.
It is important that others recognise the importance and use of alternative therapies. There is not only one way to deal with social and psychological problems and such therapies should be made more widely available in the future.
There is often a preconceived notion that Kolkata Sanved simply teaches ‘dancing’.
It is challenging to secure funding for this type of work as immediate changes cannot easily be observed and reported on to donors. The positive changes occur over time and it is a process.
Due to a trainer’s history they still may face discrimination by others. For example one school initially refused to accept the girls as trainers.
It takes a long time to educate girls to become dance movement therapy trainers.
Key factors of success:
Encouraging movement as an important form of expression for girls to communicate their feelings.
Not having structured dance patterns but instead allowing participants to choose and explore different movements that they feel comfortable with.
Giving time and space to survivors to allow them to take as much time as they need to feel comfortable to join in with the sessions.