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Fight against trafficking

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Fight against trafficking

Ruchira Gupta is the Founder and President of Apne Aap Women Worldwide - a grassroots organization in India working to end sex trafficking by increasing choices for at-risk girls and women. Ruchira began her career as a journalist, working for various organisations. During her journalism career she extensively covered women's rights, armed struggles in the north-east of India, caste conflict, and minority issues. Ruchira also worked in the United Nations in various capacities in 12 countries for over ten years.

 She won an Emmy for outstanding investigative journalism in 1996 for field producing a documentary, The Selling of Innocents, on sex-trafficking from the villages of Nepal to the brothels of India. It was with them that in 2002 Ruchira started Apne Aap (meaning "on one's own") from a red light district in Mumbai. She hired a teacher and started a community classroom where the women would drop their children. Then they moved the children into boarding schools, which were removed from the brothels so that children could study in a free, healthy atmosphere. The women then organized themselves to fight for their rights, such as getting government documents like voter cards, ration cards, caste certificates, below poverty line cards which are very important to avail of any government scheme and subsidies. Slowly the dependency on brothels came down. But that riled the pimps and brothel managers. It was then that they trained the women on rights and the process of seeking police help.

Based on the success of Mumbai, from where Apne Aap has eased out, they now have centers in Delhi, Kolkata and Forbesganj (Ruchira's hometown) in Bihar state, touching the lives of 21,000 girls. They work to empower women in prostitution by making them aware of their rights, imparting them with vocational and income generating skills, getting their children educated and connecting them to media and political representatives to give them a voice and social visibility. Women are organized in groups that give them a collective bargaining power.  Of the 21,072 girls they have been able rehabilitate, 20 per cent were victims of trafficking. They were able to help 13,000 women get government IDs and subsidies.

Ruchira was the recipient of the Clinton Global Citizen Award for Commitment to Leadership in Civil Society by the Clinton Foundation; she was honored with the Abolitionist Award by the House of Lords. Other awards she has won include Times Now Amazing Indians awards, Godfrey Phillips Bravery National Award UNA-NY's Women Who Care Award and Abolitionist Award presented by Nomi Network.

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