“Our family home in Kolkata was near Sona Gachi, one of the largest red-light districts in Kolkata. While I was aware of it, it was much later as a photographer during one of my walks in the city, that I first entered a red-light district,” says Leena Kejriwal, alumnus of the School of Visual Arts, New York.
“I realized if my art had to really make the impact I cared about, I had to distill the issue into a simple, engaging piece of art that spoke to everyone. That is when my public art project MISSING emerged.”
MISSING was launched at the India Art Fair in 2014 and since then, Leena has run a successful crowdfunding campaign to gather support and spread awareness on sex trafficking of young girls. In 2015, she launched theMissingLink Trust, a non-profit that works in the area of anti-trafficking awareness.
Art installations, women stencil campaigns, the MISSING mural walk and padyatra are some of the tools they employ to spread awareness on the issue. The Trust also conducts rural and urban awareness programs and workshops.
So far, they have reached 75,000 people in 14 cities and towns, as well as 46,000 vulnerable youth who have been educated under the rural awareness programs. 5,000 stencils have been created across 40+ cities and 40,000 students have gone through the urban awareness programs.The Trust also creates awareness on menstrual hygiene and has helped build 300+ toilets.
With so many initiatives, communication is the key, especially since the non-profit works in rural areas. “WhatsApp groups, audio and video calling let us communicate consistently as almost everyone has a smartphone. We have separate WhatsApp groups to discuss daily updates and progress, share work files, and review calls.”
“We effectively used WhatsApp as part of our crowdfunding campaign. The success of that first-ever campaign gave us the confidence to further drive public ownership for a sensitive cause like ours,” says Leena.