Remember The Name Rangu Souriya. This Shero Has Saved Thousands Of Girls From Sex Trafficking In India

Rangu-Souriya

Remember the name Rangu Souriya, for she is the type of Shero who deserves far more attention than others, especially in the media. Here’s the thing about serious topics like sex trafficking and gender violence (or violence that disproportionately affects women), the news we see can easily become sensationalist, engaging us in the moment, but then the next news cycle comes around and our attentions have faded.

If there was a way to regularly integrate stories like what this incredible woman in doing, perhaps there would be more impetus to want to get involved in change. Women like Rangu don’t rely on sensational or viral click-bait media to get her work done, clearly she has been driven by a grave injustice.

By now most of us know a few statistics about human trafficking today, which includes sex trafficking and forced labor, is the widespread epidemic of abuse by exploitation against someone’s will. It is estimated that today there are 27 million people in bondage across the world, making human trafficking the largest criminal enterprise. In fact there are more humans in slavery today than at any other point in history. It generates over $32 billion in profits each year, and the only other crime outpacing human trafficking is illegal drugs.

Now that you have those sobering facts firmly in mind, let’s talk about Rangu’s amazing efforts to combat this horrific crime. She hails from the Darjeeling hills of north Bengal in India, and has reportedly rescued more than 8000 girls from sex slavery at the Nepal border, where , and prevented another 20,000 children, most of them girls under the age of 18 from being trafficked between India and Nepal.

Rangu-Souriya

In an interview with DarjeelingTimes.com from July 2015, Rangu says she was always motivated toward social justice causes from a young age, and her work preventing trafficking came while she was a student. She studied at the Darjeeling Government College, and a senior there told her how he had met a woman by the name of Anuradha Koirala, who was a huge anti-sex trafficking activist in Nepal. Anuradha mentioned that she often rescues girls from the Bengal area, but because they are from another country, she is limited in how she can help them.

After Rangu found this out, she decided to take action, and started an organization called Kanchanjunga Uddhar Kendra in 2004 with the help of friends and family. Word spread quickly throughout the community about what they were doing an many more parents started to come to Rangu reporting their children were going missing.

A lot of their information came from tips, and with the help of local police and various organizations, Rangu and her team were able to rescue some of the victims caught in this trade. However, one of the most frustrating aspects of her work since beginning 12 years ago is that they have had no understanding or help from the local government, which means they rely on donations and even use their own money to keep this important mission going.

Rangu says her organization is not only focused on helping the victims re-integrate into life after being rescued, but also spreading awareness in order to prevent it from happening to others.

“Once the children are rescued we keep them with us till all the legal formalities are completed, and till the child is given proper counseling. So we stay with a case till the missing children are properly repatriated with their family. Once a child is rescued from somewhere, that child is at her/his most vulnerable stage… by the time we have rescued them, their self-esteem, their will to live is already lost. So these children and youths need all the help and support that they can get,” she said.

anuradha-koirala

Their efforts, despite the lack of financial help from the government, has not been without success.

“In the past 11 years, Kanchanjunga Uddhar Kendra has rescued over 600 children from brothels of Pune, Mumbai, Bihar, Kolkata, Siliguri, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Haryana, and also child traffickers and bonded labour situations from almost all the north Indian states. Though some of the children we have rescued have been male, almost 95% of the children we rescue are female. Just goes on to show how vulnerable our girls are,” she said.

She has received death threats, pressure to drop her cases in court and even physical abuse from traffickers who she is actively working against every day, but counts her faith in God as a reason for not giving up despite the danger.

“I was threatened by goons and mafia on several occasions and even lured with handsome sums of money, but my aim and vision is to free women from their bondage. It would be unwise for me to say that I do not fear for my safety, however, I believe that since God showed which path to walk on, God will take care of my safety as well. Having said that [I get] threats on an almost every day basis,” she said, but also adds this is not the biggest threat to her work, the indifference and ignorance from the government is.

When asked how she feels about being a woman in her line of work, Rangu says she is proud and believes her feminine perspective enables her to sympathize with the victims of this grave injustice.

“As history is our witness, there is nothing that woman cannot do… we can do what any man does, and in a better way… I think the inner interest, courage, bravery and sense of responsibility towards my society is perhaps because I am a woman. To be honest, I am thankful that I am a Woman,” she said.

anuradha-koirala

Her bravery and good work have earned her the Godfrey Phillips Social Bravery Award and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s Women Achievers’ Award in 2009. She has also been honored by more than 20 regional organizations for her services.

It’s clear that the impact of hearing the story of Nepalese anti-trafficker Anuradha Koirala while in college was what sparked a life-changing decision for Rangu, who has become an inspiration herself. For those who recognize the name Anuradha Koirala, she was awarded as the CNN Hero Of The Year in 2010 for her work through her organization Maiti Nepal, which has helped over 12,000 Nepali women and girls since 1993.

Her story, too, is pretty incredible. After suffering abuse at the hands of her husband for years, as well as 3 miscarriages, Anuradha, an English teacher, found herself divorced. Despite social stigma on women like her, she took the opportunity to look at these experiences as a turning point, and together with a group of teachers, journalists and social workers to create Maiti Nepal to help the most vulnerable people in their community.

These are the women we want to learn more about and share with our community of readers. They are the everyday heroes, whose efforts largely go unnoticed by the masses, yet the difference they are making in the lives of children and adults caught in one of the worst epidemics in our world today is immeasurable.

We salute you Sheroes for your humanity and can only hope by elevating your stories, we have the chance to inspire other women and girls to become powerful advocates and activists in their communities.


 

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