Ramon Magsaysay Awards: Nepali Trafficking Survivors Find Power in Numbers

Members of Nepal’s Shakti Samuha (Power Group)

By Patricia Esteves (The Philippine Star) on August 30, 2013—
“Nepalese Sunita Danuwar was only 14 years old when she was trafficked to India to become a sex slave.

“I remember there were two guys who offered me sweets and afterwards, I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I was in a brothel in Mumbai, raped by seven men,” said Danuwar, one of the founding members and currently the president of Shakti Samuha, an organization founded and run by trafficking survivors in Nepal.

Shakti Samuha is one of this year’s recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for helping victims of sexual exploitation get back on their feet and build new lives.

When Danuwar was in the Mumbai brothel back in 1996, she learned there were other Nepalese girls who were imprisoned there.

A girl two years younger than her was sold by her own family and forced to have sex with 80 men a day. She learned there were actually 200 Nepalese girls in the brothel. Most of them were infected with HIV and were very sick.

“I have no chance to go out, no chance to die or even kill myself. I didn’t like this kind of work but nobody was there to help me,” she said.

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After a month, she and other girls were rescued in a police raid.

Instead of being repatriated, they were kept in a detention center in India because they had no passports and the Nepalese government didn’t want them for fear of infecting people back home with AIDS.

With the help of an NGO, Danuwar and others were finally able to go home. But their troubles were far from over. Back home, their families disowned them.

“Our government did not accept us, even our families rejected us, they made us feel that it was our fault why we ended up as prostitutes,” Danuwar said.

Despite their plight, Danuwar and her friends said giving up was not an option. They decided to rely on each other for support.

“The 15 of us who lived in the same room in the Indian shelter promised to stay together and carry on with our lives,” she said.”

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