Nepali woman labelled ‘Terminator’ for her fight against human trafficking

Sunday, January 30, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR - Meet Anuradha Koirala, a crusader known for her anti-human trafficking drive through her non-profit making organisation Maiti Nepal and often labelled the ‘Terminator’ by human traffickers.

Maiti has saved more than 12,000 girls from sex slavery and prevented 45,000 children and women from being trafficked at the India-Nepali border.

For her untiring efforts, September 5 is designated anti-trafficking day in Nepal, reports the Star Online.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Star, Koirala, who was named CNN Hero 2010, said she does not see the award as an individual recognition, but recognition for the seriousness of human trafficking.

“For me, it means that globally, people have recognised the issue of trafficking. All these people consider it a heinous crime and want to fight it together,” she said during a press interview here.

She narrated a story where a young girl who was sexually exploited and contracted AIDS died in her arms a few years ago.

Workers at the crematorium, which normally charged 850 Nepali rupees, demanded 8,000 rupees for the funeral costs because they were scared of contracting AIDS from the dead girl. They eventually settled for 7,000 rupees.

“People talk about human and child rights but even after her death, people were bargaining over her body,” said Koirala.

She also tells of the struggles of young girls who are given hormone injections, raped up to 20 times a day, not given food, locked up and burned with irons.

“It hurts me a lot but it also keeps me going. I never regret that I do this work,” she said.

A typical day for Koirala starts at 5.30am and ends at 11pm. She is usually based in Maiti’s centre in Kathmandu, which is home to about 500 rescued girls.

An English teacher for 20 years, she began her crusade after reading about trafficking in the papers in the 1990s. She also used to see many women begging around the temples.

“They were victims of domestic violence and polygamy. I was asking myself where are these women’s rights,” she said.

She left her job and together with a group of friends, formed Maiti in 1993 to combat domestic violence, girl trafficking, child prostitution, child labour and various forms of female exploitation.

Today, the organisation runs three prevention homes, 10 transit homes, two rehabilitation homes and a hospice.

The toughest part of her job is reintegrating the girls into society in view of the social stigma.

Koirala herself was a victim of domestic violence as her husband was an alcoholic who used to beat and scold her. But back then, she kept things to herself and never told anyone because of family honour.

Because of her brazenness, she often receives death threats, but is undaunted.

And there is a reason why traffickers call her ‘Terminator’ - a total of 688 offenders have been sentenced to jail so far through the joint effort of Maiti and the police.

Koirala said she got the inspiration to work for the needy from her grandfather, mother and Mother Theresa.

Because her father was an army colonel stationed in India, she studied in a convent school in West Bengal and she used to follow her mother to Mother Theresa’s shelter when she was eight years old.

“I met her just before she died (in Sept 1997) and she told me to keep on with my work,” said Koirala who defines religion as serving people.

So does she ever feel tired after pushing for so much but still seeing the same crimes happening?

“I’m not tired at all,” said Koirala. (ANI)

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