Winter: Rutgers- Social Welfare, Healthcare Delivery, and Community Engagement in Sonagachi, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Kolkata, India

Program Overview

Term Start Date End Date Application Deadline
Winter 2021
Jan 03, 2021
Jan 16, 2021
Oct 10, 2020
Language(s) of Instruction
Class Standing
Good Academic Standing


Program Advisor

The Program

Come learn about community-based interventions that aim to provide healthcare services and empower the vulnerable populations of sex workers and children in Sonagachi, India. Immerse yourself in the community-developed organizations, learn about community based interventions, collective support, and study with professionals in the field to learn about the historical impact of the sociopolitical climate on the function of the cooperative approach in Sonagachi.

Sex Workers

Program Locations

Street Art



Sonagachi, known as one of Asia’s largest red-light districts, is located in the heart of northern Kolkata, India. Consisting of nearly 10,000 sex workers and their children, Sonagachi was developed by the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee by Dr. Smarajit Jana in 1992, as a way to reduce the spread of STIs -particularly, HIV- and empower sex workers. Now predominantly run by the sex workers that reside there, Sonagachi has developed into an independent cooperative with supportive resources to assist sex workers in maintaining their independence.


As part of this program, students will learn about the historical impacts of the sociopolitical and economic climate on a vulnerable population of sex workers in Sonagachi, Kolkata, India. Students will learn about community development interventions through direct engagement with sex workers and their children, and will be provided opportunities to compare social work practice strategies utilized in the United States and India through professional lectures. As part of their course requirements, students will complete several pre- and post-departure tasks including a final paper and mandatory readings, as well as maintaining a personal journal throughout their stay.

Academic Calendar

Winter 2021

Housing and Meals

Students will be housed in shared rooms at a boarding/guest house in Golpark, Kolkata, throughout the duration of their stay. All students will be provided with an orientation dinner on their day of arrival and a farewell dinner on the night before their departure. Students will be responsible for purchasing all other meals throughout their stay.

Faculty Leaders

Rupa M. Khetarpal

Rupa M. Khetarpal is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University, School of Social Work. She has nearly 20 years of practice experience with survivors of trauma, both domestic and international including Africa, South Asia, Middle East, Balkan, Eastern Europe and Latin America. Her clinical practice has included working with survivors of torture, human trafficking, domestic violence, sexual violence and gender-based violence. She has also worked extensively on developing cross cultural competencies within various systems in responding to trauma survivors in New Jersey. She currently manages the MSW Violence Against Women and Children Certificate Program (VAWC-CP), that offers specialized education through the Center on Violence Against Women and Children, Rutgers University. She received her Masters degree in Social Work (MSW) from the Rutgers School of Social Work.

Rupa was the former Director of the Cross Cultural Counseling Center, a mental health services program for refugees and immigrants at the International Institute of New Jersey. She previously served as a psychosocial consultant with Doctors Without Borders/Medicene` Sans Frontiers (MSF) providing psychosocial support to the humanitarian aid workers. Rupa is currently pursuing doctoral studies at the Rutgers School of Social Work, and her research focuses on refugee mental health, trauma and resilience.

Catherine Buttner

Catherine Buttner, MSW, is the Senior Coordinator for Community Engagement at the Center on Violence Against Women and Children. She also serves as a part-time lecturer at the Rutgers School of Social Work and is a Doctoral Candidate focusing on minority women’s experiences of exclusion through dominant reproductive health narratives in the United States. Ms. Buttner has been involved with research in the areas of post-colonial social work, sexual exploitation, sex work, gender-based violence, and women’s reproductive health for more than a decade. She has assisted various community organizations in branding, marketing, and communicating their work more effectively. Ms. Buttner has expertise in the areas of violence against women, racism in the maternal andreproductive health care system, program evaluation, creative research dissemination, community and professional trainings, and connecting research to practice.