Tara: Ek Roshni: Empowering Women in India Affected by Domestic Violence and Social Inequities - Interview with Founder Hardika Kukreja
"Women in today’s age need to be made confident and they need to have the confidence that they can sustain themselves financially."
Hardika Kukreja is a current Changemaker Ambassador and alumna of Homerton College. Hardika holds a Master of Law (LLM) and is the Founder of the Tara Project. Tara: Ek Roshni is an organization that provides training and support for women wanting to leave situations of domestic abuse by empowering them to take finances into their own hands. Hardika is looking after the work for the Tara Project in India. While, the exceptional team of Subhankar Paul, Najib Sharifi and Eleonore Buffet Heuser are looking after the structuring of the project and the back-hand work.
From left to right: Najib Sharifi, Hardika Kukreja, Eleonore Buffet-Heuser and Subhankar Paul
What is your initiative?
‘Tara: Ek Roshni’, which translates to ‘Star: a light amidst the darkness’, is a project that aims toward the upliftment of women affected by domestic violence and social inequities.
Women’s economic independence and security are necessary for the elimination of abuse. Many women, especially in underprivileged communities living in abusive relationships, are limited by the choice of poverty over abuse. Women need economic security and independence to improve their chances of living free from abusive relationships.
The Tara Project aims to provide a systematic hemisphere for women so that they can be financially independent. The organisation provides free skill training to the women where they can learn how to earn by themselves. Furthermore, there is a team of lawyers on board to provide them with any kind of legal advice that they might need. Moreover, we also endeavour to provide counselling for women who might be in need of it (because it is undue to expect people to be financially sustainable unless and until they are in the right mind frame). The organisation works on providing a holistic well-being space for women where they can learn to be independent and move forward from the abyss of physical and mental harassment in their households.
"Financial abuse is one of the most common reasons that individuals of violence stay in or return to their relationships."
Domestic violence or intimate partner violence impacts people of any race, age, gender or economic status. Violence can be physical, verbal, emotional and psychological. But financial abuse is one of the most common reasons that individuals of violence stay in or return to their relationships.
The problem faced by women in standing against the grave injustice happening against them is the lack of financial independence. Women often find it arduous to stand against the violence in the household due to the primary fear of the withdrawal of financial support. Women in today’s age need to be made confident and they need to have the confidence that they can sustain themselves financially.
How has Homerton Changemakers influenced you in this project? How has it had an impact on this project and what you do?
Homerton Changemakers is the reason this project has emerged in reality from our ideas and is helping several women today. The Tara Project was born because of the encouragement of the two wonderful women of Homerton Changemakers; Dr Alison Wood and Dr Soraya Jones who encouraged me to apply for the Homerton Changemaker Seed Fund Project. We were scared, to say the least, but with the support of these two exceptional women we received the honour of being the “highly commendable project”. Even after we won the Seed Fund for £1000, we received constant supervision from various industrial mentors such as Mr Abhi Naha (the Chief Commercial Director of Cambridge Wireless) and the two powerful women behind Homerton Changemakers.
"The support from Homerton Changemakers has kept me grounded."
There have been several instances where I have felt overwhelmed by the response to Tara and have been petrified by the cases and the instances we are seeing on daily bases while helping women but the support from Homerton Changemakers has kept me grounded. The constant supervisions by our wonderful supporters, Dr Alison Wood and Dr Soraya Jones have been very helpful. Furthermore, sometimes we understand that we are doing a difficult task as people’s lives are involved in the work, we are doing but the virtual mini-residentials and the meetings with other Changemakers Ambassadors make me feel like I am a part of a community where I can rely on my peers for advice as they are also helping society in their own way.
For me, Changemakers has been a community of exceptional people and I am fortunate to be a part of it. Every person is doing something that is changing society for the between and I have learnt a lot from all the members. I believe this learning is never going to stop.
What do you think the current impact of your project is on your studies, on society, on the world?
Tara Project has assisted many women in India. We have been carrying out training workshops on jute and handicrafts. Simultaneously, we have been getting regular medical checkups for the women of Tara along with counselling by the Aatman Counselling Centre (Ms Sonam Chhatwani). We have also provided them with self-defence training. These workshops have resulted in increasing the confidence of women and they have started empowering each other.
Furthermore, there is one particular thing that I did not initially take into consideration - we have also taken young orphan girls under the umbrella of the Tara Project because they are alone, and they need to learn how to fend for themselves as they will have to leave the after-care home soon.
We are working on several more new products than we anticipated, we have started working on indigenous dream catchers, jute coasters, jute wall hangings, scented candles, pearl earrings and customized necklaces.
"We are working to empower women because when you educate a woman, you educate the whole family."
Every day, that I talk to all the women of Tara, I feel more and more fortunate because I have the opportunity to learn the meaning of ‘woman power’ from all these members. All the women are struggling in their own way, yet every day they come and meet me with a smile on their faces. According to me, Tara is empowering women to be independent in every way possible. We are working to empower women because when you educate a woman, you educate the whole family.
To follow along the journey of Tara: Ek Roshni and find out how you can support the initiative please follow them on their Instagram page. @Taraproject_india