After years of abuse, violence and three miscarriages, her relationship with her husband ended. To be a middle-class Nepalese female, (back in the 80’s) earning a basic living as an English teacher and DIVORCED, life would have been at a significant low. But put in her words “my life’s purpose and responsibility completely changed”. Anuradha Koirala’s courageous journey at that point began…
Anuradha put a portion of her $100 monthly salary to start a small retail shop to employ and support displaced victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence. By the early 90’s she realised that there is a lot more that needed to be done which compelled the creation of Maiti Nepal which was formed by Anuradha along with a group of professionals consisting of teachers, journalists and social workers. This incredible story of protecting the powerless is presented to you by YL volunteer Freshta Mayar.
Maiti means mother’s home – therefore Maiti Nepal’s foundation is based upon providing the security of being in your mother’s arms to the victims of sex slavery, domestic violence, child labour and prostitution. To provide some perspective, in Nepal girls as young as the age of 6 are at the risk of being trafficked across the border to India for sex prostitution.
Geeta was 14 years of age when she was rescued by the police and brought to Maiti Nepal. She had been sold to an Indian brothel at the age of 9 by an extended family member, who duped Geeta’s visually impaired mother into believing her daughter would get work at a clothing company. This girl’s typical day consisted of putting on make-up, staying up until 2am and having sex with as many as 60 men.
“I used to be really sad and frustrated with what was happening in my life,” she said.
Anuradha through Maiti Nepal has helped over 12,000 Nepali women and girls since 1993, who have a similar story to Geeta. This 61 year-old woman has led this revolution of change by raiding brothels, patrolling the India-Nepal border and providing safe shelter and support services.
Her work is often dangerous and requires great personal sacrifice. The criminal elements that “deliver” young girls are a ruthless enemy and have political connections at the highest levels in India and Nepal. Maiti Nepal’s main office in Kathmandu has been destroyed twice and Maiti workers must travel with a bodyguard when overseeing rescue missions in India.
However the road to recovery is not built through one concrete slab, it is a long journey for the individual victim and the Maiti Nepal institution. Anuradha explains girls from the brothels arrive empty-handed, sick, in many cases pregnant or with small children, and “psychologically broken.”
“When the girl first comes to Maiti Nepal, we never, never ask them a question. We just let them [be] for as long as they need. We let them play, dance, walk, talk to a friend,” Anuradha said. “They are afraid at first, but eventually they will talk to us on their own.”
Maiti Nepal also provides comprehensive post-rescue recovery including medical treatment, psychological and legal counseling, formal court filings and criminal prosecution, all for free
Most of the volunteer workers are rescued girls and young women who are healthy enough to work. “They need little incentive from me,” states Anuradha. “They are working to help their sisters and they know the horror of the victims.” In addition, Maiti Nepal obtains assistance funding through grants and donations from around the world, see link below for more details:
While some of the girls are able to return to their families, many of them — particularly those with HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases — become socially stigmatized and are no longer welcome in their home communities. For these girls, Maiti Nepal becomes their new, and possibly last, home.
Today Anuradha’s heroic persona has been widely recognised through numerous awards including (but definitely not the complete set as we would have to dedicate a whole page!): First Prize, CNN Hero of 2010, Global Peace Governor Award, The United Nations Women’s Organisation Prize and Courage of Conscience Award. But at the turning point of her life, she was a middle-class teacher whose marriage had ended after years of tolerating abuse at the hands of her own husband.
The everyday hero does not need to set out to change the world on day 1. Change happens from first changing your own outlook on life; then allocating a small portion of time, money and effort for a cause that you are passionate about; then watching the revolutionary road keep lengthening.
She currently works as an Associate Director in Acquisition Finance and is a lead steering committee member of Ladies in Leverage, a social networking group for ladies in finance. She has completed a double degree; Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Finance and Laws, where she was awarded a Dean’s Certificate from the Law Faculty and she won the JP Morgan prize for coming first in Applied Corporate Finance. She dreams of a world where human beings appreciate the small doses of happiness and are driven by the most difficult challenges – no one should ever give up.