“My biggest strength has been realizing that in this whole effort, I am not a savior, but just a facilitator.” – Sunitha Krishnan
That said, this woman has been facilitating since she was eight as a teacher to mentally challenged children. At twelve she worked with the underprivileged children in schools. Again at fifteen she made her mark working in low caste communities. As retaliation for her efforts, she was gang-raped by a group of eight men. Anger fueled her decision to obtain a degree in social work and work bringing child and women victims of sex trafficking to freedom. In the past 26 years she has brought more than 12,000 victims to a better life and a chance for a future.
The largest anti-trafficking organization in the world, her prevention program, Prajwala, consists of three shelters. The organization has five objectives: prevention, rescue, rehabilitation, reintegration and advocacy. Prajwala provides moral, financial, legal and social support for women and children entering the program. For the children of prostituted women, 17 transition centers work to prevent thousands of these children from entering prostitution themselves. Vocational programs give necessary skills to lead economically feasible lives outside prostitution.
Krishnan also drafts policy recommendations and works with the government in the fields of prevention and advocacy. She is well aware that meaningful change can not take place without the support of government and NGOs. To date, seven states are following her policy recommendations. Her influence has even spread to the United States where she has met with auditoriums full of students to discuss prevention and activism.
She has made well received films on the subject of prostitution and prevention. Krishnan has had to sell her personal belongings to further her work. Programs are not cheap and although she takes no income from Prajwala, there are over 200 employees to pay as well as services and expenses. Her livelihood is supported by her films and books.
Sunitha has been arrested and imprisoned for her activism. She has been physically assaulted 14 times. Death Threats are an ongoing concern. Her rickshaw was hit by a van yet she escaped serious injury. She survived a poison attempt. Acid was once flung at her. These attempts have only strengthened her resolve.
Sunitha has received many awards including the Outstanding Woman Award in 2013 by the National Commission for Women, Padma Shri in the field of Social Work in 2016, Inagral Sri Sathya Sai Award for Human Excellence in 2016, Mother Theresa Award for Social Justice in 2014, and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice International Leadership Award given in New York in 2011. Every year has brought a host of awards.
Sunitha was born with the heart of an activist and the drive to do good in this world. Her indomitable spirit has brought forth formidable results. Out of spirit and trauma, the focus of her attention was honed in on the women and children of sexual exploitation. She is indeed a vision of inspiration.