Empowering the Future – Kolkata, India
The Founders of New Light and Aura Freedom have a long-standing and loyal friendship born from feminist activism and a shared desire to see a world free from gender-based violence and human trafficking. Throughout the years, Urmi Basu and Marissa Kokkoros have collaborated on different initiatives and events to bring awareness to violence against women, sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Then, in 2021 during the COVID-19 crisis, the Empowering the Future project was born.
Empowering the Future will be implemented through New Light’s Soma Home, a full-time residential facility for vulnerable girls in South Kolkata. The home, founded in 2005, was named after an infant girl, Soma, who suffered an untimely death due to lack of proper medical attention by her family. Through the existence of this girls’ home, it is hoped that the “value of the life of a girl child would be kept alive in the memory of all those who knew her.”
Soma Home, beautifully operated by New Light for the past 17 years, is a safe haven for the children who live there, offering a variety of support such as counselling, positive relationships with caring adults, connection to family, educational opportunities, self-defense, and
music/dance therapy to help them grow and develop into healthy young women.
New Light and Aura Freedom are implementing the following activities under the Empowering the Future project for girl children (ages 8-18) who are at high risk of sexual exploitation, human trafficking, child marriage, and other forms of gender-based violence and who have been removed from the red light districts of Kalighat, Sovabazar , Sonagachhi , Chetla and Khidirpur and other high-risk communities with the consent and cooperation of their mothers:
- Provide safe and dignified housing
- Provide healthy and nutritious food
- Support the girls to attend regular school and tutoring, as needed
- Provide extra-curricular activities such as Indian classical dance, modern dance and other art forms, computer and tech training, boxing, self-defense, sports, tailoring, craft, cookery and other activities/events of their individual interest
- Support the girls to access healthcare, as needed
- Provide mental health support and emotional support through trauma-informed counselling
- Provide awareness of human rights, human trafficking, child marriage, and other forms of gender-based violence in order to prevent violence and exploitation
- Provide rehabilitation, support and healing opportunities to girls who have previously experienced gender- based violence, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, etc.
- To provide additional supports as needed for the girls and youth of Soma Home