India is dubiously known as one of the world’s leaders in the illegal sex trade. Girls and women of all ages are forced into the world of forced prostitution as early as 12 years old and the major cities act as trading hubs for this illicit business. Kolkata is one of the largest sites in the country with an estimated 20,000 girls being trafficked out of places like Nepal to brothels in the city which then send them on to other Indian metros like Mumbai and Delhi.
For London-based Lara Sengupta whose family hails from Kolkata, these statistics were unbearable to deal with. After her grandmother passed she came across the NGO Destiny Reflection, an charity dedicated to combating the sex trade in the city. Their major issue was achieving financial independence so they could focus their efforts entirely on finding and rehabilitating girls who had been trafficked.
Since the age of 19, Sengupta has been practising yoga and she decided to harness her passion to raise the funds they needed and in April 2015 she started selling CorkYogi yoga mats. Made entirely out of cork these mats are natural, sustainable, anti-bacterial as well as aesthetically beautiful. Every time a mat is sold a donation is made to fund a woman in her rehabilitation process.
They have two courses, a literacy and numeracy course and a sewing and tailoring course and you can choose which one you’d like to support when you buy a mat. The women who undergo the tailoring course are also taught how to sew bags out of recycled saris, these bags are also sold by CorkYogi which is another step towards establishing financial independence for these women.
Sengupta hopes to dedicate more time to the CorkYogi movement and hopefully make their cause a global phenomenon. Though in an ideal reality sex trafficking would be obsolete and India’s girls could live their lives in safety and freedom, for now it’s good to know that at least there’s someone looking out for them and helping them rebuild the lives that were snatched away at such a young age.