Photo credit: Kids with Camera
Two months ago, I remember writing a post on the family tradition of prostitution within the Bedia caste in India. However, my curiosity to understand and know more about India did not stop me here. Feeling deeply intrigued but disturbed by the facts I learned, I continued to read excessively on various social issues which has long existed within the India community. Among all, I feel particularly concerned and interested on the issues revolving around sexual violence and unfair treatments towards the Indian women in the country.
Due to boredom, I chanced upon this documentary two weeks ago.
Born into Brothels
"Born into Brothels" is a 2004 American award winning documentary directed by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman. The background was set in Sonagachi, notoriously known as the largest red-light district in Kolkata, India, the film portrays the discriminated life of the prostitutes and their children.
Zana Briski, a photographer and a filmmaker started with the idea of documenting the life of the prostitutes which led her to move to live in brothels located in Sonagachi. However, never have she thought that people living in the red lights districts are very against the idea of being photographed or filmed, especially by the outsiders. During her stay in Sonagachi, she managed to cultivate and develop close relationships with the prostitutes' children.
Unlike the adults, the children were excited to meet a foreigner, someone who was very different from them. They welcomed her warmly and were fascinated by the camera she carried. The children were attracted to the idea of photography.
This surprise discovery led her to start teaching photography to the children, with the aim to motivate and bring out the creativity side of them. She hopes to help the children to realize their own self worth and convince them that poverty and sex work are not their destiny.
The children have produced photos showing many aspects of life in the red light districts. No outsiders could have captured such vibrant and beautiful photos portraying the streets, life and some of the darkest hidden corners in the red-light districts. In addition to the making of the film, exhibitions were held to display the works by the children. The aim of it was to raise public awareness and at the same time, hopes to boost up the children's self confidence and esteem.
In this documentary, Zana Briski also documented most of her processes and efforts to place the children into a boarding school. She faced many challenges and obstacles. But she never gave up. Her intention was simple. She hopes for a better future for the children and believe that education is the key for changes.
How Do I Feel
This is indeed a very inspiring documentary. This film touched my heart, made me cry and made me reflected deeply on myself. How fortunate and lucky am I to be able to lead a life without discrimination and unfairness. How blessed am I to grow up in an environment where there is clean water, shelter and opportunities for education.
Yet... I still complained. I did not learn the word "contentment" by heart. I think this is so for many of us too who are born in a more privileged society. We always make a big fuss upon every minor things. We complained and worry about work, school, friends, no money to buy branded products or to travel, but little did we know that these children only wish for the day for them to enter the sex trade will never come. I feel ashamed for my desires. I feel guilty for my incessant complaints about life which are nothing when compared to the pain of the prostitutes and their children.
It is poverty that led people into the sex trade. On top of prostitution, there are even worst problems such as drugs, forced labour and slavery, child prostitution and rapes. It is known that in India, no one would lend you a helping hand even if you are killed and die by the streets. I feel disgusted by such cold and cruel society. This really made me to appreciate all the things I have even more.
Kids with Cameras
I am touched by Zana Briski's efforts in helping the children to pursue a better life. However, she did not just stop here. Her desire to help more children eventually led her in founding an non-profit organisation named Kids with Cameras (known as Kids with Destiny today). The aim of the organisation is to give hope and provide opportunities for the unprivileged women and children in India.
Though her efforts might seem small and may not impactful on the whole India society, it is still great and heartening to know someone is out there trying to make a change. It might not have benefited the whole community, but for the few who had benefited, they might become someone who would bring bigger changes in the future.
This documentary also made me realized that there are still many things for me to learn. These are things which I could never learn from books. That is to become a selfless person who is willing to give and contribute and a contended person who can be satisfy with life. I believe I have mentioned this in my New Year post a few days ago.
I remember the conversation between two parties from a tv variety show which I have watched recently.
"Do what you are able to do"
Person A: What do you think you could do for the underprivileged?
Person B: I don't think I can bring major changes the people from the underprivileged community. I can only do what I am able to do, that is to contribute a little of my strength to help as many as I could. The major changes will come from the strength of the social welfare groups or non-profit organisations set up specially to help that group of underprivileged. Only them would have the strength strong enough to bring changes to a community.
However, we knew clearly that prostitution and sexual violence towards the women are major social problems in India that could not be easily solved. Even the Indian government do not have enough power to bring about changes. The roots of the problems lies in the traditional mindset of the Indian people have. This includes patriarchy and the existence of the caste system. I could only say the only thing the government could do is to boost up the India economy as to offer more employment opportunities for their people. Education plays a big part in changing people life.
I believe "Born into Brothels" has given a voice to the prostitutes and their children and let the world knows about their problems and pains.
A little help from an individual have changed the destiny of the children and together with more, more could be saved from their terrible fate.
For people who would like to know how the children are living now or how you could help, you could visit the Kids with Camera website for updates and information.