Nepali activist urges world to fight human trafficking
Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on August 13, 2011
|By Chung Min-uck
“Receiving the Manhae Prize makes all of us realize that the problem still exists and we need to fight together,”said Koirala, 62, in an interview on Wednesday.
The social activist and the founder of the Maiti Nepal Foundation, a non-profit organization in Kathmandu, Nepal, is dedicated to the protection, rescue and rehabilitation of the survivors of sex trafficking. It has helped over 12,000 victims and has led to the conviction of 415 criminals so far.
The word “Maiti” in Nepali means “mother’s home,” where a female child is born and raised till she leaves for marriage.
Before becoming an activist, she used to work as a high school English teacher for 20 years. However, one morning in 1993 while walking around a temple she saw many children and mothers begging on the street. So she decided to open a mom-and-pop store for them and this became the start of her reaching out to the community.
She recalled them saying, “What about our children. They are vulnerable. Anybody can rape them. Anybody could take them to India.”
This was a turning point toward the establishment of Maiti Nepal, a home for Nepali children and women who are exposed to sexual trafficking.
According to the United States Department of State, some 15,000 Nepali women are sold to criminal gangs in cities in India every year. Their average age is 16, with some of them as young as six or seven.
Koirala herself had experienced physical assault, too. Though she was raised in an upper-class family and was well-educated, during her marriage life she suffered three miscarriages due to her husband’s abuse. This was the reason she couldn’t turn her back on the people in the street.
Her foundation is currently expanding its presence from preventing human trafficking to other forms of exploitation of children and women. She raised concerns on the lack of funding.
“What we want from the people is donations. We only had one donor in Germany. But because of the global recession, he lost all his properties. We are in a funding crisis,” she said.
“So support Maiti Nepal.”
Regarding the ultimate objectives of her activist movement, she said, “I want to close down Maiti Nepal because that means there is no more trafficking. I would like to request everybody around the world to join hands with us to fight this crime, which is a shame on humanity.”
She was chosen as the 2010 CNN Hero of the Year and has received many awards as a human rights advocate.
She will receive the Manhae Grand Prize for peace at the Manhea awards ceremony in Inje, Gangwon Province.
The Manhae Prize has been awarded in six categories every year since 1997, in the memory of Buddhist reformer and anti-Japanese independence activist Han Yong-un.