Marissa Kokkoros, Founder and Executive Director
Marissa started her journey in women’s rights doing field work with different organizations around the world. From her travels in Sub-Saharan Africa, India, Nepal, Italy, The Balkans and more, she has studied and researched the social position of women and girls in different places, as well as the greater community impact of violence against women and human trafficking.
Through her travels and research, Marissa has made strong ties and fostered deep relationships with fellow feminists and women’s rights defenders around the world. She has worked with local women leaders in different communities and taught English as a second language to women and children in Nepal, Kenya and Italy. She has held lasting and loyal friendships with survivors of human trafficking and believes ‘the sisterhood’ can heal immense trauma.
Marissa lived in Italy for a number of years, which is where her mother was born and where her experiences supporting sex trafficking survivors began. Marissa has held lasting and loyal friendships with survivors of human trafficking and wartime sexual violence around the world and believes ‘the sisterhood’ can help heal immense and extreme trauma.
After a long time away from home, Marissa returned to Canada in 2013 and founded Aura Freedom International, plunging head-first into projects and programs addressing gender-based violence and sexual exploitation. Her research on different forms of violence against women in Nepal has been recognized by
different human rights organizations. Marissa is also an active community builder in Toronto, lending her experience to different projects around the city addressing violence against women and girls and sexual exploitation, on top of her work with Aura Freedom International.
Bold and energetic, Marissa’s passion is watching the ripple effects of placing knowledge and power into the hands of women and advocating for governments to address the root causes of violence and exploitation. Her ability to move people through her words and writing is helped by her theatrical past, including writing, acting, singing and clowning in countries affected by poverty and HIV/AIDS. Her heart is wide open and her approach to problems is head-on, wasting no time. She is driven, yet remains compassionate in the face of the many atrocities that Aura Freedom works to eradicate. Her dream is to see peace and freedom enjoyed by all women and girls, but it’s her love for her daughter that keeps the beat of her heart.
Orlaith Croke-Martin (she/her)
Research Lead & Coordination:
GBV In The Media project
Orlaith grew up in different countries around the world, witnessing and learning about the exploitation of women and girls from a young age. This experience led Orlaith to dedicate her academic career to studying current issues in women’s health, with special attention to how different cultures of sexuality reflect and reinforce gender and sexual inequities which affect its most marginalized communities.
Orlaith is passionate about research that is rooted in lived experiences, that adopts a critical, intersectional and victim-centred approach, and that places the most marginalized community members at its forefront.
Asha Dahir (she/her)
Community Engagement, Education and Movement Building
Asha is a women’s rights and youth advocate in ending gender-based violence. Asha has 5 + years experience engaging with marginalized youth and other communities to end GBV and human trafficking. As an immigrant, a settler, and a Black Muslim woman, Asha brings all aspects of her identity to the work she does to end gender based violence and advance equity.
Sabrina Lamanna (she/her)
Indigenous Research Lead:
GBV In The Media project
Sabrina is a non-status Mi’kmaq and second-generation settler. She is currently a PhD Student in the Law and Society Department at the University of Victoria, located on the unceded territories of the Lək̓ʷəŋən and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples. Sabrina uses her interdisciplinary education in Criminology and Justice (BA) and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies with a specialization in Transitional Justice (MA) to contribute to Indigenous resurgence, the revitalization of Indigenous laws, and relational transformation that honours Indigenous communities, particularly Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ peoples. As the Indigenous Lead Research Consultant for Aura Freedom’s GBV In The Media project, Sabrina is dedicated to uplifting the aspirational voices of survivors, families, and communities to ensure that both just reporting practices and resolutions to GBV are determined from Indigenous community contexts on their own terms.