Child trafficking is a 10 billion dollar global market annually. And out of the many trades that trafficked children are used for, the most common is commercial sexual exploitation. Some might even call it modern-day slavery. There are many who are working in the sphere of trying to curb this atrocity. One such inspiring personality is Sunitha Krishnan, recipient of this year's Padma Shri.
Krishnan runs an NGO called 'Prajvala' that helps rescue and rehabilitate the victims of sexual trafficking and also educate the children of sex-workers in Hyderabad. Gang raped at 15, she now uses her won experience as a foundation for her social work. At her Ted Talk IN 2009, she shared her story that led her to fight for the cause:
I don't remember the rape part of it so much, as much as the anger part of it. Yes, there were 8 men who defiled me, raped me. But that didn't go to my conscious; I never felt like a victim, then or now. What lingered from then to now, I am 40 today, is this huge outrageous anger. For 2 years, I was ostracised, stigmatized, isolated because I WAS A VICTIM.
Her efforts with a particular case end only when the victim has been rehabilitated into mainstream society. While one might expect that the rescued women would be trained to sew, knit and learn all things feminine, Sunitha has a larger vision for them. The girls are also imparted training in skills like welding, carpentry, masonry, security and cab-driving, widening the development trajectory for women. Krishnan doesn't believe in training them in only soft skills.
One of the things these girls have is immense of courage. They do not have any 'purdahs' inside their body, any 'hijabs' inside themselves. They've crossed the barrier of it, and therefore, they could fight in a male dominated world very easily and not feel very shy about it.
Her battle is not easy, even today. In her entire career, she has been beaten up more than 14 times and can't hear from her right ear. She also lost a staff member in one of the rescue missions. But what is her biggest challenge?
Biggest challenge is the civil society. It's you and me. My biggest challenge is your blocks to accept these victims as our own.
It's true. We do have a tendency to believe that we'd get the better of ourselves by looking down on someone else. The 'necessary evil' of prostitution is a reality that exists, and it is a display of the handicaps in our dysfunctional society. And what message does she have for society members?
In your limited world, can you open your minds, can you open your hearts, can you just encompass these people too? They also are part of us and this world.
In one of her blogs published in February 2015, long before the announcement of her Padma win was made, here is what she shared:
Living for the moment and loving every second of it, I cherish the fact that I am investing my life the right way.
Truly inspiring words, these!