Anuradha Koirala, the founder of Maiti Nepal, has rescued and prevented over 50,000 female victims of human trafficking in Nepal in the past 30 years.
In 1949, Koirala was born into a well-educated and affluent family, showered with love from her parents. Her life seemed like a carefree fairy tale until her marriage during which suffered physical abuse, mistreatment and humiliation from her husband. Koirala blamed domestic violence for enduring three miscarriages.
Finally, she was able to escape her horrible marriage and start a grocery store in a small town to make a living. However, Koirala didn’t forget the pain of her marriage. She determined to use her experience to help abused victims of human trafficking in Nepal. Thus, she embarked on her own rescue mission, tracing the footsteps of trafficked girls.
A Background on Human Trafficking in Nepal
Nepal and India share an open border of 1,850 kilometers, which has made human trafficking in Nepal one of the most lucrative markets in the world. The Human Trafficking Rescue Program estimated that there are more than 54 women trafficking cases in Nepal every single day. According to investigations from the United Nations and local non-governmental organizations, approximately 12,000 to 15,000 Nepalese young girls and women are victims of human trafficking each year. These individuals hold hopes of finding well-paid employment abroad, but their dreams turn into nightmares. Most of them end up in brothels in India, enduring rape and becoming slaves to addiction. Furthermore, these exploited women are at high risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.
Maiti Nepal Helps Rescue Human Trafficking Victims
In 1993, Koirala used her meager income to establish the nonprofit organization Maiti Nepal, meaning “Mother’s Home Nepal.” The organization offers medical care, rehabilitation services and educational training services to trafficked girls, enabling them to reintegrate into society. Its vision is to create a society free from exploitation against women. As the organization developed, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) decided to provide financial support to Maiti Nepal.
Moreover, Maiti Nepal collaborated with UNICEF to launch a dance program “KinderKulturKarawane” to release girls’ inner pain and rebuild their confidence. Many survivors have found a positive outlet through dance, expressing their emotions and boosting their physical and mental well-being. Additionally, survivors incorporate their stories into dance performances, raising awareness among the public about the dangers of human trafficking and the common tactics used by traffickers.
Currently, Maiti Nepal has established 11 temporary shelters in different border towns, providing counseling services, health care and life skills training. The organization‘s transit homes serve not only as temporary residences for victims of human trafficking but also as interception points to rescue children and women. It collaborates with border police, conducting regular raids on brothels and searching for traces of traffickers along the Nepal-India border.
Maiti Nepal became the world’s first social organization to utilize AI technology for tracking criminals and missing girls in 2018. The American software company, NowtRKit, provided the facial recognition technology program for tracking human traffickers to Maiti Nepal free of charge. The adoption of this technology significantly enhanced Maiti Nepal’s border surveillance efforts, enabling the organization to intercept criminals crossing the border more efficiently and preventing human trafficking. Koirala stated that in 2022, the organization helped police rescue 499 women and children.
The work of combating human trafficking is fraught with danger. Koirala remains confident even though she receives life-threatening letters from criminal groups every day. From the moment she decided to establish Maiti Nepal, she understood the kind of difficulties she would face.
Through the relentless efforts of Koirala and Maiti Nepal over the past 30 years, the Nepalese government has designated September 5th as “Anti-Trafficking Day.” The government has continuously worked towards improving relevant laws, protecting victims and strengthening sentencing measures. Koirala regards every assisted girl as her own child. She hopes for the day when Maiti Nepal can disband, signifying the end of trafficking in Nepal and the cessation of torment for Nepalese girls.
The work of Maiti Nepal has received recognition and support from various sectors both domestically and internationally for their efforts against human trafficking in Nepal. Koirala’s steadfast belief and selfless dedication set an example for this organization and inspired more people to join the fight, bringing hope and transformation to trafficked girls.
– Mingjun Hou