Saturday, October 5, 2013

Training Police to Target Traffickers

About 50,000 women and girls work in restaurants, dance bars and massage parlors in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. Many of them endure brutal sexual abuse. One tool to ending the exploitation is to educate the country’s community police force to recognize sex slavery and respond to it effectively.
With that in mind, a six-day training project has helped transform the way police think about the way women are treated in Nepali entertainment establishments.
“This training really helped us to open our eyes,” said one participant. “We will put all our efforts to end this kind of crime from society.”
The officers watched films about the impact of sex slavery in Nepal. They heard presentations from Free the Slaves and from our frontline partner Shakti Samuha, an organization formed by sex slavery survivors.
nepal police certificates
“We are very hopeful that community police will cooperate to create a respectable workplace environment for women in the entertainment sector,” said Shakti Samuha chairperson Sunita Danuwar.
Participants received certificates and learned the importance of working with community organizations to identify hotspots, and to recognize the physical and psychological needs of survivors who are rescued. Activists have encountered police officers that refuse to file criminal cases, but the police commissioner says those days should be ending.
“This type of training will give the opportunity to understand, and create opportunity for working together in future,” said Police Commissioner Kuber Singh Rana.

We are very glad to be honored with such prize: Sunita Danuwar

KATHMANDU, Nepal-Shakti Samuha, a group that fights against human trafficking and helped rebuild the lives of thousands of trafficked and abused women has won famous Magsaysay award this year.

The award from the Manila-based Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) is Asia’s highest honour and is widely regarded as the region’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

‘We are very glad to be honored with such prize. It is the first occasion that any oraganization in Nepal bagged with Asian level international prize,’ Mrs. Sunita Danuwar, president of Shakti Samuha told to Nepal Mountain Focus after getting the honor. Danuwar further said that her organization felt more responsibility in serving women and girl who have survived from trafficking and excluded by society . Danur further informed that the prize would be utilized for the further efficiency of the organization (Shakti Samuha).

Shakti Samuha is the first organization to be set up and run by survivors of trafficking in Nepal.

‘The organization’s founders and members are being recognized for transforming their lives in service to other human trafficking survivors, their passionate dedication towards rooting out a pernicious social evil in Nepal,’ RMAF said in a press statement .

It also said that the members of Shakti Samuha showed bright example to the world in reviving the human dignity that is the birthright of all abused women and children everywhere.

Established in 1957, the Ramon Magsaysay Award is Asia’s highest honor and is widely regarded as the region’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize.  It celebrates the memory and leadership example of the third Philippine president.

The prize is offered each year to individuals or organizations in Asia who manifest the same sense of selfless service that ruled the life of the late and beloved Filipino leader. The formal conferment of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards will be held at the Cultural Centre of the Philippines on August 31. The award carries a purse of $50,000.

Four other Nepalis Mahesh Chandra Regmi (1977), Bharat Dutta Koirala (2002), Dr Sanduk Ruit (2006), Mahabir Pun (2007) have already won the award.

Hoping that it would get support and cooperation against human trafficking, in Nepal as well as in the international level, the foundation thanked all the members, supporters and well-wishers.

The awards established in 1957 celebrate the leadership qualities of the third Philippine president and is given every year to individuals or organisations in Asia, who manifest the same sense of selfless service that ruled the life of the late Filipino leader.

Along with Shakti Samuha, Ernesto Domingo of Philippines, Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (Corruption Eradication Commission) from Indonesia and Lahpai Seng Raw from Myanmar were honored with the prize. Likewise, Afghanistan’s first woman governor was also honored with the prize for ‘her bold exercise of leadership to build up a functioning provincial government against great odds.’

From Mumbai to Magsaysay


When six of her 10 children died young like chickens in autumn, Sunita Danuwar’s mother thought it was a witch’s doing and the family decided to move out of Dailekh to Jammu and Kashmir in India. Once there, the family built a hut on a land leased from the locals and worked on potato farms and apple orchards. Danuwar’s father was also a mason and a carpenter and the little girl trailing behind him picked up his skills. But what Danuwar, then Ban Sanyasi, remembers the most about Kashmir is snow and how they used to make chatpate out of it to enjoy on hot days. She was five when she moved to Kashmir.
Nine years later, her 16-year-old brother would go missing. Danuwar’s uncle had come to visit and when he left, her brother went with him, no one knew where. The family decided to follow a lead that surmised the two might have gone to Nainital. On their way down, they stopped at Almora, Uttarakhand, to make money for the journey. For a month there, Danuwar’s parents, her older sister and her husband, and Danuwar herself started piling rocks and pebbles from the riverside for
tractors to haul away.
Danuwar was 14 then, with her cheeks often compared to Kashmiri apples by young men, especially by two tractor drivers in their early-twenties. The men had no names, or at least none that Danuwaur remembers, but they were Nepalis. The Indians called them ‘bahadur’ and her parents ‘babu’, she just ‘dai’. They too addressed her as they would a sister and even went as far as to dole out free advice. “You are a grown up now. You shouldn’t be a burden to your family when you could work and look after them. Come with us and we will find you a job.” To which, Danuwar would reply, “If you know so much about jobs, how come you are driving tractors?” By the end of the month in Almora, the family had earned around IRs 5000 in wages. On their last night in the district, Danuwar’s family rented a room at a roadside lodging in fear of missing the early bus out, but they were not alone. The two tractor drivers said they too were leaving for Nainital and bought laddoos to commemorate the start of the journey.
Danuwar hesitated. So did her father, but eventually he gave in and took a laddoo. After her father seemed fine, Danuwar followed suit. When she woke up, she was no longer in Almora.
Danuwar began to scream. A Tamang woman told her that two young men had brought her on a trip and that they were out buying new clothes for her. “Take a bath and make yourself comfortable,” the woman said.
When the day went by and the two did not return, the woman told Danuwar to get ready for ‘dhanda’, by which Danuwar thought she meant cleaning dishes and washing clothes. When the woman added, “Look pretty and made-up”, and Danuwar still seemed confused, the woman flung her hands in the air and cried, “This is Mumbai. You have to look pretty and keep men satisfied.”
Danuwar understood. She had been sold for around IRs 80,000 to a brothel in Mumbai, but she would never be ready for any dhanda regardless of threats of death. The fight with the ‘gharwali’ continued for a month until the day one of the tractor drivers walked in with a nine-year-old girl. After depositing the little girl, the man went inside the bathroom. When he walked out, she slapped him, and received one from the gharwali standing behind her.  Soon after, Danuwar was sold to another galli, five minutes away, for double the amount. There, to get her ‘used to’ dhanda, a gang raped her. She only felt numb.
For five months she remained in that galli, along with around 30 other Nepali girls who weren’t allowed to talk to each other or go outside beyond the chain-gates guarded by men, unless you had resigned to fate and accepted prostitution as your sole profession. An Indian client was charged IRs 300 an hour, IRs 3,000 a night and a foreigner IRs 2,000-5,000 an hour, more than double that for a night. Nepali men were not allowed. Ironically, the gharwali thought these men would save the Nepali women trapped in those gallis.
The actual knights in shining armour, however, would be the Indian government and seven Nepali organisations—Women’s Rehabilitation Centre, Maiti Nepal, Child Workers in Nepal, Navajyoti Training Centre, Shanti Rehabilitation Shelter, Stri Shakti and the Agroforestry, Basic health and Cooperative Nepal—which in 1996, six months after Danuwar was sold into prostitution, raided these gallis and rescued children under the age of 18. Of around 200 rescued, only 128 were able to eventually return home to Nepal; the rest were denied entry either for lack of citizenship or for being a ‘poko of HIV/AIDS’. The Nepali government could not even pay for the airfare—Bollywood actor Sunil Shetty did.
Once in Nepal, the road to recovery and reconciliation with the past began. Danuwar wrote a letter to her uncle in Dailekh, but they refused to come visit her in Kathmandu. She tried travelling to Dailekh in search of her kin, but the fear that she might not be welcome after what had happened or that she might once again find herself in Mumbai prevented her, until last year. But by then it would be too late; her mother had been dead for eight years and her father for three. The only consolation: they had at least found her older brother in Nainital with her uncle.
Her eldest sister in Bardia told her they did look for her as well after she went missing, but because they had no pictures of her, the search could get nowhere. Danuwar finds it a poor excuse: They should have kept looking, like she is, for those two faces that changed her life.
“I can never forget them. Even now, I pause to check when I think I’ve seen them. They must look different now, but their young faces are engrained in my memory,” says Danuwar, now 31 and chairperson of the Shakti Group, a non-government organisation, formed soon after her return from India, dedicated to fighting human trafficking.

Shakti Group was selected as the recipient of the 2013 Ramon Magsaysay Award.