Sowmika
2000
2016

On a rainy August evening, a woman left her little daughter at the gates of Aarti Home. The girl, barely a year old, crawled from the entrance gate of Aarti to the front door. She was wearing a tiny red dress and had nothing but a small slate in the backpack tied to her back. This girl was Sowmika. No one really knows what had led her mother to take such a drastic step and leave her child by the gate.

Sowmika was a very diligent student and did well in school. After 12th grade, she came to Sandhya and expressed her fervent desire to do some sort of service in the community. When the Mana Bidda project began, Sowmika asked if she, like some of the older girls, could work on it. At the time, Sandhya believed it was essential for Sowmika to pursue her education and ignored Sowmika’s repeated requests.

One day, a news station came to do a piece on Aarti Home for Women’s Day. They interviewed Sandhya and some of the older girls who were working on Mana Bidda. Sowmika happened to be standing close by, so the reporters interviewed her as well. In that moment, she spoke with such ferocity that everyone around her was stunned. With passionate tears in her eyes, she said that she never wants anyone to see her fate; she never wanted anyone to be abandoned. She said that "there shouldn’t ever be a need for another Aarti Home."  Even Sandhya was surprised by this side of Sowmika. Her passion moved her and Sandhya decided to let Sowmika join the Mana Bidda project.

Today, Sowmika is 18 years old, and she is a driving the change in her community. She goes to villages and creates open forums to speak about difficult issues like female feticide, domestic violence and dowry. She is creating support groups of people at a mandal level and engaging in open, thought-provoking conversations about these difficult topics with women in rural communities. Through her compassion and drive, she has been able to mobilize police, doctors, judges and local health workers to support her in her cause. In the past year and a half, Sowmika has helped stop over 40 abortions, pointed out instances of domestic and sexual violence, and prevented girls from being trafficked.