Thirty-three girls of a state-run shelter home, including six Rohingya children, will walk the ramp wearing designer clothes of ‘Bangali’ brand, set up by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, for a fashion show scheduled next month in Kolkata.
The girls are the inmates of the state’s largest shelter home — Liluah Girls’ Home, and some of them are victims of human trafficking. The clothes and accessories to be worn by the girls aged between 10 and 16 years have been designed by their fellow inmates, who are currently being trained by Bibi Russell, a Bangladesh-based international designer.
The fashion show to be organised by the government is scheduled on March 7 at Uttirno, a state auditorium in Kolkata. “Our chief minister told us to do something so that the girls (at the Liluah home) get economically empowered. The aim behind the initiative is positive skill development, apart from reintegration of these children into the mainstream. This initiative is unique in India, where girls, some of whom are survivors of trafficking, or who are in need of care and protection, will participate in a fashion show. They will showcase apparels and accessories made by their fellow inmates at the home,” said Ananya Chakraborty, chairperson West Bengal Commission for Child Rights.
The girls will walk the ramp in the backdrop of live Bengali music at the fashion show. A Bengali band, Surma Dohar, has also been roped in for the show. Embroidery work, products made with material of gamcha (a trademark of Bibi Russell), Tant sarees, among others, will be showcased.
“Our chief minister has designed the logo for ‘Bangali’ brand. Through such fashion shows, the products of the brand will also be showcased and marketed through Biswa Bangla stalls. A product line is being prepared for that,” added Chakraborty.
State women and child development minister Sashi Panja said the fashion show is a noble initiative. “We have revived the handlooms, which lay defunct at the shelter home. We have also roped in Bibi Russell, who has been training the inmates. Artisans of Bengali Tant sarees have also been asked to help. This is going on since last year. Girls at the home are being trained to make apparels and jewellery. This will develop their skills. The show is being planned under the guidance of Russell,” she said.
Since April, last year, Russell has been training the inmates at the Liluah home. According to officials of West Bengal Commission for Child Rights, after the products of the brand are sold through Biswa Bangla stalls, part of the proceeds will be given to the inmates. At present, there are over 200 women and girls lodged at the Liluah home, including 16 Rohingya girls.
Mamata has vehemently opposed the Centre’s move to send Rohingya refugees back. In public rallies, she had called for a more humane approach to the issue, stating that not all refugees are terrorists. At present, there are around 44 Rohingya refugees lodged at various jails in Bengal.