Born the youngest of three daughters to a family at the bottom of India’s caste pyramid, Anita’s* path in life seemed clear enough. She would follow her mother into the sex trade as generations had done before her, offering their bodies to slake the lustful thirst of visiting traders. In exchange for this degrading work, Anita would earn enough to keep the family alive and perhaps together. A portion of the money would be set aside for better days—just in case.
But Anita’s life has turned out differently. Thank God.
From an early age, she had a desire to learn new things. After much pleading, she was sent off to boarding school at the age of 8. She briefly returned home twice a year for holidays. At age 12, her father died as a result of his drinking. Then at age 16, she finally had to return home on a permanent basis due to lack of funds.
Home, however, was no safer at that time than when she was first born a decade and a half earlier. She joined her mother in a little alcove on the ground floor of her uncle’s old, three-story brick building. There was virtually no privacy within the house, and outside her safety was at constant risk from the clients of the red-light district.
When an electrical meter caught fire above her head one night, she’d finally had enough. Anita soon went with a friend to interview for a job at Love Calcutta Arts, an artisan group specializing in high-quality, handmade paper products such as notebooks, cards, and journals. When Anita expressed her desire to work to support her mother so her mother could leave the sex industry, they hired her.
Anita progressed happily through the three-month training and proved an astute learner. With two fast hands and a clever mind, she’s become an expert bookmaker. Her mother no longer needs to prostitute herself and the two have moved to a safer dwelling. For Anita and her mother, freedom has come at last. A cycle has been broken, and hopelessness has given way to hope.
Located right in the heart of an infamous red-light district, Love Calcutta Arts is committed to benefit as many of the city’s women and families as possible. They select trainees from those most at risk of abuse, neglect, and poverty rather than basing a hiring decision on skill only. Every workday begins with Scripture and prayer. They pay a fair wage with good working conditions, provide on-the-job training, offer a savings plan and medical fund for all staff, and invest profits into expansion so that more women can be saved from sex slavery.
Each hand-embroidered, hand-bound journal from Love Calcutta Arts represents hope for the thousands of Anitas still out there.