Anuradha Koirala was motivated by pain. The 67-year-old Nepali native was just chosen to receive the Padma Shri, one of India’s most prestigious service awards, for her role in fighting human trafficking and freeing thousands of girls from the illicit sex trade. She was instrumental in rescuing more than 12,000 sex trafficking victims, and her work saved more than 45,000 more from a similar fate. Koirala said it was the “unbearable pain of victims” that motivated her in this mission.
During a phone interview, Koirala said, “When I see their pain — their mental pain as well as physical pain — it is so troubling that I cannot turn myself away. This gives me strength to fight and root this crime out.”
A Life Built on Service
Koirala’s life has been devoted to service. In her early years, Anuradha Koirala found her inspiration in the work of Mother Teresa. Educated at St. Joseph Convent School in India, she dedicated more than 20 years of her life toward teaching children. Still, she felt a deeper calling. Nepal was a hotbed for sexual slavery, and Koirala decided to be a part of the force fighting human trafficking.
In 1993, Koirala left her teaching career and founded Maiti Nepal to support victims of sexual slavery and human trafficking. She recognized that these victims are often stigmatized by their families and communities, and her priority was to set up a sanctuary home.
A Home for All Women
The word Maiti refers to the mother’s family. The word has sentimental value for Nepali women, meaning that they belong to their husbands forever. Unfortunately, victims of sex trafficking often find themselves homeless and unable to be married. Maiti Nepal changes that by providing a haven, a home, to these women and girls. Regardless of whether they are married or not, Maiti Nepal is a sanctuary for the exploited and violated.
Under Koirala’s leadership, Maiti Nepal currently consists of 14 homes actively fighting human trafficking by focusing on prevention, counseling and training for girls at high risk. The girls receive training in domestic skills and are provided opportunities to participate in women’s empowerment programs. Maiti Nepal also has two hospices and a school that educates approximately 1,000 children.
Maiti Nepal also focuses on awareness campaigns that seek public support against trafficking of children and women, provide legal support to victims and work with police to rescue victims and apprehend traffickers.
India’s Padma Shri honor is the most recent in a long line of achievements for Koirala. Since she began her cause, she has been the recipient of 38 national and international awards for her efforts toward fighting human trafficking.
– Gisele Dunn