“Just imagine what would happen if your daughter was standing there. What would you do, how would you fight? So you have to join hands, you have to take each child as your daughter. Soon you will feel their sorrow and then you will feel the strength that comes out of you to protect them.” -Anuradha Koirala
The fourth highest civilian award granted in India each year is called the Padma Shri. It can be given to those who are living inside or outside of India, as long as they are striving to make a difference to those who are Indian. This year it was awarded to a woman who has rescued many thousands of women from human trafficking.
Anuradha Koirala was born in Nepal in 1949. She served as an English teacher in Kathmandu, Nepal for twenty years. She had been married to a man her family didn’t approve of who ultimately had abused her. “Every day, there was battering. Then I had three miscarriages that I think [were] from the beating. It was very difficult because I didn’t know in those days where to go and report [it], who to … talk to.”
Although she loved her job, she began a retail shop with her teaching income to help displaced people who were sex trafficking victims or domestic abuse victims.
In 1993, she started Maiti Nepal (meaning “Mother’s Home”), a shelter for women who have come out of human trafficking. She also has three human trafficking prevention houses, 11 restorative houses, two hospices, and a school. Her organization teaches communities about slavery, HIV, gives courses in management of hotels, law administration, and much more.
Most of her homes include women who came from India sent to work in brothels in Nepal. They also take in domestic abuse victims and abandoned children susceptible to human trafficking.
Skills such as candle making and sewing are offered to the women they reach out to in order to help them make their own income. Many who have been helped will travel along the border to educate families or even help law enforcement with rescue missions.
Some of the homes that Maiti Nepal had built were burned by angry people or traffickers. Anurdha Koirala has been threatened many times and has to have a bodyguard with her now.
Anurdha Koirala was inspired by her own parents who always taught her that the greatest and holiest work was to serve communities. She was further inspired by Mother Theresa. The fruits of her labor have since inspired the many lives she has helped that will continue on after her, so she has said is her hope.