This post is about two students from Germany, who lend a helping hand to stop violence against women in Bengal. The city of Kolkata is quite synonymous with rallies, huge processions and adda sessions – both political and social. Armed with placards, banners, colorful or white tees, hats with slogans, and captions written on it, citizens – young, not so young and even senior citizens, occasionally attend a rally to show support for a cause or for a political party of their choice.
However, on a sweltering March afternoon on College Street, one of Kolkata’s busiest thoroughfares, two fair faces stood out among a group of women out who were supporting a “Cause.” My curiosity and my journalistic “nose n eyes for news” took over, and I went forward and introduced myself. That is how I met Lea Kokapas and Julia Wawer.
They may look like tourists in Kolkata trying to have a swell time, but these two German girls from Cologne were different. Both were in their early 20s, accompanied by a hundred others from a Kalighat-based NGO to stop violence against woman in Bengal.
These girls are in town for a 4 week stint with New Light, a group which looks after the welfare of sex workers and their wards. Julia Wawer, who has a bachelor’s degree in international business from a university in Netherlands stated that her mother is a teacher at a high school at Cologne. One of her mother’s colleagues is associated with a German fundraising organization, BONO, which is partnering with New Light.
“We wanted to come to India and do volunteer work. So here we are at last.” Julia said. According to Julia, time seems to be flying at an apparently shady corner of the Bengal capital, “We will write a detailed report on the work done by New Light in the red light districts of Kolkata. However, we are primarily interacting with the kids at the various shelter homes run by the NGO. It feels good to see that they are getting a shot at life and we, in what ever little way, can help in the process.”
These two energetic and charismatic young activists wore white kurties and jeans, and rallied over 5 km despite the heat and dust. They have taken the year off to travel around the world and be involved in humanitarian missions. “We arrived in Kolkata on March 8. After 4 weeks, we will leave the city and travel to other parts of India. In September, we will get back and continue our studies.” said Lea, who is a communications graduate.
The newly acquired “unsafe” tag on Kolkata, however, doesn’t bother the German duo. “We haven’t faced any untoward situations in the city. People are nice and accommodating. However, when we hear about the recent rapes all over the state, it definitely scares us. This must stop at once and the Government must take drastic action.” Lea said.
When asked about the situation in terms of rape and violence against women back home in Germany, Julia said that the situation is much better than what we are hearing about in this state. Lea then stated that the number of incidences are much less and both the police and administration are very proactive and they have strict exemplary punishments which are given to offenders.
Both Lea and Julia sincerely wish that stringent action would be implemented against offenders by the Government of Bengal as soon as possible.