Over a decade ago, few organizations in India liberating minor-age children from the sex trade provided rehabilitation programs and long-term care for rescued children. At the time, the late Smita Singh, our dear friend and partner, identified the need for holistic restoration to prevent re-trafficking in Kolkata, which led to the Mahima Homes.
The Mahima Homes is one of our women’s empowerment initiatives bringing justice and transformation to Kolkata, India, through its rehabilitation and reintegration programs for individuals rescued from the sex trade. They support individuals in various ways and empower women and children to find their voice and testify against injustice. Smita’s passion and life’s work live on through the homes, and to this day, bring hope and healing.
In light of International Women’s Day, we are pleased to highlight and welcome Sutapa Chatterjee, Associate Director of Mahima Homes, as a new voice in leadership. Partners International is hopeful for the homes’ continual impact as Sutapa brings gifts, experience, and strength to the partnership. Read on to learn about Sutapa.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
I was born into a nominal Christian family but struggles in my personal as well as in my professional life enabled me to know Jesus and grow stronger in my faith. I have worked for 25 years with an International Bank. While leaving the Bank in 2017 I was the Deputy Head. Thereafter I joined St. Paul’s Cathedral in Kolkata as a co-ordinator of their counselling center. I am presently doing a Post Graduate Diploma in Counselling and Wellbeing, and also a Bachelor’s of Christian Study from Bishop’s College of Kolkata. I am presently the Associate Director- Justice Initiatives for Mahima Homes.
What led you to work at Mahima?
While working at St. Paul’s Cathedral, I have witnessed the struggles of women and children, who have experienced immense trauma in their lives. I felt that I need to do more. When I heard about the great work that is done in Mahima, I wanted to be a part of this service. I am deeply moved by the suffering of trafficked and exploited victims and have a great passion to help them.
What are your strengths and ‘style’ as a leader?
I would say that a leader is one who leads from the front as well as believes in teamwork. I’m convinced that there’s no substitute for hard work and there’s no compromise with truth. When people see these qualities in me they are motivated to achieve high standards.
What skills and strategies have you developed that support you in this role?
In the banking industry, I oversaw the work of around 30 staff and learned a lot about motivating and leading a group of people. It also honed my skills in administrative matters. As a counsellor, I have learnt to actively listen to people, understand their problems, and help them to find solutions.
Are there any new and exciting ideas or plans that you’re able to share about the ministry?
I would like to bring in career counselling professionals to guide our children regarding their future. Many are keen on various professions in different sectors.
At Mahima, you fight for justice and help rehabilitate and reintegrate girls rescued from the sex trade. What motivates you the most to do this work?
Being a believer in Christ, I have been motivated by the fact that Jesus always stood by the weak and disenfranchised. The forgiving of the woman caught in adultery is a clear example of his love for the downtrodden. We as followers of Christ need to be like Him. When I see a complete transformation in the lives of the girls–forsaking former habits and embracing a new way of life–it brings me immense joy.
We believe in the importance of local leadership. How do your experience and background growing up in Kolkata equip you to support women and children at Mahima in a special way?
Being born and brought up in Kolkata and I have good knowledge of both Bengali and Hindi languages. I am able to communicate well with all our beneficiaries. Further, as I have travelled extensively in the slums of Kolkata I have firsthand experience of their challenges.
“Transformation in Kolkata looks like a city free from the slavery of sex trafficking.” —Sutapa Chatterjee
What’s a recent story of transformation from your time at Mahima?
Just a couple of days back we were able to repatriate a girl to Bangladesh. She was trafficked at the age of 17 and was at Mahima for four years. During her stay she learnt to sing, to dance and was very good at art. She was able to testify in court boldly, with our legal assistance, so that the court went in her favour. She stood second amongst a number of participants in a role-play competition organized by the District Child Protection Unit. She also won a prize in a drawing competition amongst various Homes in Kolkata organized by Child Welfare Committee. The transformation in her life has touched me deeply.
When you are not at Mahima, what do you like to do?
I like to attend Church Fellowships on Sundays and share God’s word in church whenever I get the opportunity. I also frequently participate in prayer meetings and do one-on-one counselling when requested. I also love spending quality time with my family, reading books, and listening to music.
How can we pray for you?
If you would like to support our work in India with the Mahima Homes click here.