marissa kokkoros - founder & 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. Marissa has spent time with sex workers in India’s red light districts and taught English to women and children in India, Nepal, Kenya and Italy. Marissa lived in Italy for a number of years, which is where her mother’s family is from 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.
Through her travels and research, she has made strong ties and fostered deep relationships with fellow feminists and women’s rights defenders around the world. 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 leader 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, and it’s her love for her daughter that keeps the beat of her heart.