By Michele Kumi Baer
Across India, Nepal and Bangladesh, GFW grantee-partner Kolkata Sanved demonstrates how dance can have a transformative impact on survivors of violence. Through Dance Movement Therapy (DMT), the group trains and empowers survivors of violence and trafficking, including mental health patients, women and children diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, domestic workers and homeless children.
The group evolved from a dance program housed in a shelter for trafficked women and girls run by another grantee-partner Sanlaap. Through her experience developing this program, Kolkata Sanved Founder and Director Sohini Chakraborty crafted a unique DMT curriculum and became inspired to found Sanved in Kolkata, India in 2004. The organization has since collaborated with groups in other parts of India, as well as Nepal and Bangladesh, where it continues to provide DMT as an “alternative approach to counseling, psychosocial rehabilitation, expression and empowerment.”
Total GFW grants to Kolkata Sanved: $22,000
The power of dance and movement is evident through Sanved's work: Dance allows students to move from being “rehabilitative victims” to “proactive advocates.” Over the years, the organization has crafted a DMT curriculum that listens to the needs of its students and empowers them, through rights-based advocacy and awareness, to be confident, bold and expressive artists, as well as advocates of their own rights.
With GFW support, the group has successfully shared its important work on DMT with over 20 women from Nepal, India and Bangladesh at a training workshop in Nepal, including young social workers, counselors, activists and psychologists. Barriers of language were overcome through dance, a more participatory and accessible form of communication. “Dance is a very empowering tool because it comes from within. Before we speak we move, so we all have this quality within us,” Sohini shared during a visit to the GFW office in June 2010.
"The ground beneath my feet does not slip away anymore. With dance, I keep up with the rhythm of life.”
– Kolkata Sanved member
The group notes that DMT has been a remarkably useful tool for women surviving trauma and abuse. Participants at workshops have reported that DMT is “healing and transformative.” These women also trained to be advocates who effectively assess the need and impact of DMT in their communities – through field work, report writing and needs assessments. Sanved has high aspirations for DMT. From villages and schools, to hospitals and clinics, to slums and shelter homes, the group sees the viral transformative power of dance for healing and bringing communities together.
Despite international recognition for its groundbreaking work, Kolkata Sanved is no stranger to hardship. The organization has faced difficulties acquiring funding for its innovative approach to therapy and convincing local community members about the credibility of dance as a tool for social change. “But we move on...that's the dance spirit!” Sohini said.
The group has trained over 2,500 people to date and impacted over 5,000 people with its workshops, classes and events. In 2009, Kolkata Sanved won the prestigious Beyond Sport Award in the “Best Project For Health” category. For such a young organization, this type of recognition is a testament to the powerful impact of Sanved's work. The group has also received recognition from Dr. Mallika Sarabhai, a highly acclaimed Indian dancer who attended Sanved's fifth anniversary celebration. The partnership between her and Kolkata Sanved is set to grow through a planned collaboration with Mallika's prestigious performing arts academy, Darpana.
Currently, Sanved is planning to expand its impact, with aspirations to build a center of excellence for producing talented, experienced dancers to be DMT trainers. This Training of the Trainers program also enables the dance graduates of Kolkata Sanved to gain leadership skills and be able to make their passion for transformation through dance a livelihood.
Learn more about Kolkata Sanved on the group's website.
Watch an interview with Sohini Chakraborty.
Watch a promotional film about the organization: