In the year 2005, New Light started its first residential facility for young girls at risk. This was necessary to protect the young adolescent girls in Kalighat and other red light districts from being abused and trafficked. The home was named after an infant girl, Soma, who died an untimely death due to lack of proper medical attention by her family. Through the existence of this shelter 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.
The three storied licensed facility located in a fully residential area of South Kolkata today, is home to 35 girls who have been removed from the red light district of Kalighat with the consent and cooperation of their mothers.
The girls of Hogar Meridional-Soma Memorial Girls Home attend regular school; learn Indian classical dance, modern dance, computer training, boxing, tailoring, craft, cookery and other activities.
Nearly 10 years ago, New Light Soma Memorial Girls Home opened its doors as a full-time residential facility for children between the ages of 9 and 18 who were believed to be high-risk targets for trafficking or sexual exploitation. Over the years, more than 35 girls have called our facility home, sharing in the care, counselling and access to quality education, tutoring, and training in sport, yoga, and artistic self-expression that our teachers, staff, donors, and volunteers work determinedly to provide. We are thrilled that so many young girls have embraced these opportunities, excelling in their studies and artistic endeavours, with several Soma Home graduates now actively committed to the pursuit of higher education and vocational training. These young ladies - once socially and financially limited to a life on the streets - now aspire to become social workers, politicians, dance teachers, and doctors.
Unfortunately, according to the terms of the license granted by the Provincial Government, Soma Home is only allowed to provide shelter for minors. Once the residents reach the age of 18, they can no longer legally receive care under the Soma Home license.
We could not accept this. The young women at Soma Home come from backgrounds that are hugely challenging, some suffering years of abuse and violence. Many of the girls were born in the slums and red-light backstreets of Kolkata, the children of female sex workers who were themselves once exploited or trafficked. The New Light team feared that to abandon its young graduates at the vulnerable age of 18 was not only irresponsible, it was inhumane. Without shelter and support, it would be nearly impossible for them to continue with academic studies or professional training, and many would surely be forced into prostitution or early marriage.