Tag Archives: Inspiring women

Sunitha Krishnan

“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.

Sindhutai Sapkal

Called the “Mother of Orphans”, Sindhutai is a formidable and loving force who has brought a stable, peaceful home environment to more than 1,442 orphaned and destitute children in the Indian State of Pune.  She continues to achieve these accomplishments through begging and giving talks to facilitate donations for her six home locations.

Born on November 14, 1948, much has been made of the fact that she was unwanted.  Her nickname, Chindhi, literally means “torn piece of cloth”.  Although an illiterate cowherd, her father, Abhimanji Sathe, shooed her out the door to attend school, against her mother’s wishes.  As the family lived in abject poverty, she used the leaves of a Bharadi tree to write on, with thorns as writing implements.   Her education ended after fourth grade when family problems and a marriage at 10, to a 30 year old man, necessitated it’s end.

Over the next decade, she gave birth to three male children.  But when she agitated for pay for the village women who collected cow dung from the fields to burn for fuel, her living situation changed.  Until then, a local strongman, in collusion with the forestry service, withheld all forms of payment.  Her work resulted in the granting of wages to these women.  The strongman, in revenge for her actions, convinced her husband to throw her out when she was overdue for the birth of her fourth child.  That night she gave birth to a girl in the cow shed.

Sindhutai separated the umbilical cord with a stone. Walking several miles to her house, she was again rejected with her mother telling her to beg at the rail station for food and shelter.  So began the next stage of Sindhutai’s life, relyng on the kindness of strangers to support herself and her daughter.  At first she sang as she begged but then she overcame her fears and started giving speeches and was so persuasive that her collections increased.

Over time  began noticing the many children who had nowhere to go.  Deducing they were orphans, Sindhutai took them under the mantle of her care, begging all the more to support her new charges.  At first she did it to make money, but then she realized her mission was to provide a home to all who needed it.  That mission has led to the establishment of six homes, with destitute, abandoned women coming for shelter and acting as housemothers.  In an effort at fairness, she turned her daughter over to the care of a Trust to not show favoritism to the orphans and destitute children.

As of the latest article found, she has adopted 1,442 children and has collected a large assortment of sons and daughters-in-law and grandchildren.  Many of her children went on to take profession positions – doctors, lawyers and administrators.  She still speaks to obtain funds, all of which she pours back into the shelter and care of children. In an act of irony, her husband returned to her, but she only accepted him as a child, she was done being anything other than a mother.  Sindhutai introduces him as her oldest child.

 

 

Finding sources

Writing a book is a frustrating but exciting experience.  Non-fiction is so very different from fiction.  I love fiction, it is what I choose to read when I’m not researching for the book.  But I don’t think I could write it.  Dialogue is tricky and the infinite care needed on descriptions and plot is intense.  I respect anyone who has the creativity to imagine another world and portray it with color and finesse.

I wish I were more like that but I’m not.  I’m serious-minded, analytical, fact-based. But writing non-fiction can be a beautiful thing.  “Radium Girls” was a very creative work; it read like fiction.

Exploring these women with their people focused gifts is a treasure trove of fascinating people.  There are so many women who have achieved great things, there just aren’t as many who have gone through extremely traumatic experiences and because of those experiences are achieving great things. I have researched many women so far and finding the right women is like searching for a needle in a haystack.

When I come across a woman who meets the parameters I am seeking it is like unwrapping a present.  The things she is doing to benefit the world draw me to her. Her story evokes sympathy and a certain admiration that what she has achieved has affected many people. I want to know more and I believe others will feel the same way when they read the book.

But, getting the manuscript written correctly and in a timely manner is, of course, key.  Do I have a thumbprint on something others will be drawn to or am I only seeking my own desires?  That still remains to be seen.