Take any afternoon, you are bound to find a group of young girls in the middle of class with Sonal Kapoor, the 36-YO founder of the Protsahan India Foundation. They would be sitting on the terrace of one of the foundation’s centres in a slum area in West Delhi. Between ages of 8-18, the girls come from marginalised families, and have all faced the threat of violence, (including sexual abuse). But despite the trauma, they still have in them the gusto for life, which can be seen clearly through their enthusiastic faces.
Each of these girls has a dream, and that is exactly what Kapoor and her team are trying to help them achieve. To empower these young girls, give them access to education, healthcare, and to give them a safe environment where they can get a chance to thrive.
Kapoor teaches her class which lasts for an hour. It includes motivation, meditation and breathing exercises. She says that the children need action-oriented, transformational approach to achieve their goals. She teaches these girls that education, self-respect and courage are a woman’s capital. The foundation has its unique way of achieving its aim. Its principles are represented by acronym ‘HEART’ - healing, empowerment, art, recovery and technology.
It is an empathy-based method
, aiming to heal trauma using education and creative arts and to provide access to technological resources to experience new life skills. Their idea is to help these girls come out of the pain and trauma by using art to express themselves.
Beginning in 2010
from a tiny room in a West Delhi slum, this foundation now has centres across the country. So far, it has rescued 948 girls from abuse and helped them enrol in formal schools. Also, it has taught almost 20,000 about child rights, the prevention of child sexual abuse and practical knowledge like their menstrual hygiene. Around 200 girls have also been given training in entrepreneurial life skills. Today, the foundation connects with about 80,000 girls across India, through numerous programmes.
They teach the girls how to use computers, filmmaking, photography, design and meditation. 80 girls have been trained to become wedding photographers. Almost 11,000 have made short films, photographs, theatre productions.
Through the Covid-19 pandemic, Protsahan has worked to provide relief to slum areas, having special focus on children in distress. They have worked in Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Odisha, Jharkhand and Assam, and have expanded work from 15 slums to 48 slum clusters that were struggling.
As schools were closed and classes happened online, the foundation made it possible for girls across its centres, to have access to digital devices and continue education. 412,350 hot meals were provided, along with 161,781 packs of dry rations. Psychological support was also given to over 3,610 people. The foundation held grief and counselling sessions, both group and individual, for those who lost family members to Covid.
For initiatives like these, Protsahan partnered with organisations like Mission Shakti Foundation (the Martha Farrell Foundation), Pajhra, Shades of Happiness Foundation
and the Digital Empowerment Foundation. Protsahan has also created a psychological support care manual with support from UNICEF India.