Into The Light: Girls of Kolkata (running length 30mins) takes the viewer on a journey into the lives of seven girls growing up in the city of Kolkata in West Bengal, India.
We follow them as they explain why their circumstances and environment present many challenges and how these are compounded by the fact that they are female. They discuss the changes that they would like to see in their own lives and in their society, so that they and other young women like them can look forward to a life of safety, independence and financial stability. We also meet some of their parents, adding extra context to the girls’ lives and reinforcing the vital role that education plays in breaking the cycle of poverty.
Like all large Indian cities, Kolkata, is a thriving, rapidly developing modern metropolis. Despite the economic growth, Kolkata is still home to thousands of children living or working on the streets and in countless slums. During the film, the viewer is also taken on a journey in the dead of night to meet some of the children and young women who live in extreme destitution, with sadly little to no means of escaping the life into which they were born.
Saraswati and Neha, both 11 years old, live in a suburb of Kolkata called Majerhat. Despite receiving a modest education in “the village”, they know too well the dangers they are confronted with by being girls, particularly the ever-present prospect of being forced into marriage too young, at great cost to their education and independence.
Rani and Puja, aged 14 and 15, live in unusually extreme conditions next to a large landfill site known to the local people as Bhargar dump. Their family lives are very much centred around Bhargar and they speak to us about their experiences supplementing their parents’ income by working as “pickers” on the dump.
Manu and Dolly, also aged 14 and 15, in many ways are living the most comfortably out of all our characters. This is in some way ironic, as they come from the harshest of all backgrounds. After becoming unable to care for them, Manu and Dolly’s parents gave them to the care home where they now live alongside other girls with similar stories. A place they have called home since before they can remember. They both speak eloquently (having being schooled in English) about their past and what they hope the future holds for them.
Finally, Priyanka is the oldest of the group at 20. She is already married and being older than the other girls is able to present a more in depth critique on the society of which she is part. She also lives next to busy train tracks, which have brutally shaped much of her life and severely affected her education. Despite this, she involves herself in community work that ultimately brings her empowerment and gives her inner strength.
The film concludes with a passionate rallying call by the girls as they demand gender equality in a society that is continuing to neglect the value of its most important untapped resource for ultimate change; its young women.