Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dr. Sunitha Krishnan

Sunitha Krishnan

Born 1972 (age 40–41)
Education at : St. Joseph's College, Bangalore, Mangalore University
Occupation:  Founder of Prajwala, Hyderabad
Known for:  Social activist, co-founder of Prajwala, an NGO that works for the rehabilitation of sex workers and their children.

Address : Prajwala
20-4-34, III Floor, Behind Charminar Bus Stand 
Charminar, Hyderabad
Andhra Pradesh, INDIA
Zip/Pin: -500 002
Ph: +91 40 24510290 
Fax: +91 40 24410813
Email : 

Dr. Sunitha Krishnan has dedicated her life to rescuing women and children from sex slavery, a multimilion-dollar global market. In this courageous talk, she tells three powerful stories, as well as her own, and calls for a more humane approach to helping these young victims rebuild their lives.

The Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards honor and celebrate women leaders who are working to strengthen democracy, increase economic opportunity and protect human rights around the world. Sunitha is the co-founder of Prajwala, an anti-trafficking group that rescues women and children from brothels and provides them with education, rehabilitation, advocacy and reintegration into society. To date, Prajwala has rescued more than 4,636 women and children, 2,000 of whom Sunitha liberated personally. Vital Voices honored Sunitha in recognition of her work to prevent human trafficking, shape anti-trafficking policies and help create better lives for survivors.

We have a strong and disturbing story today about sex trafficking and the courageous work of one woman in India who is rescuing young children from forced prostitution. Estimates of the number of young girls sold for sex across international borders go up to nearly two million a year, not counting those tricked or kidnapped into prostitution within their own countries. 

She stands barely taller than these children, but to them Dr. Sunitha Krishnan is a towering figure — big sister, mother, and school principal rolled into one. Their faces betray few outward signs of the trauma these children have endured. Every child at this transition center is HIV positive. They weren’t born that way. They were infected as a result of rape or incest.
Dr. SUNITHA KRISHNAN (Co-founder, Prajwala): I don’t know what their future is. I know what their present would be, and for me it’s one day at a time right now. And my effort is to see that their smiles are restored everyday, and I can sustain their smiles.
But beneath her smile lies a deep anger that propels Krishnan. It began when, as a teenage social activist, she was gang-raped.

Dr. KRISHNAN: The rape per she was not so much of an issue for me. I don’t know, for some reason I was never traumatized by that, the fact that I was raped. But what happened after that made me think [about] the way my family treated me, the way the world treated me, the way people around me treated me. The sense that thousands and millions of children and young people are being sexually violated and that there’s this huge silence about it around me angers me. This huge normalization of that angers me.
Krishnan began working to combat sexual violence in what she says is its most pervasive form — prostitution. After getting a doctorate in social work, she and a Catholic brother, who died in 2005, founded Prajwala, which means “eternal flame.” It is dedicated to removing — she says rescuing — women from brothels. It begins with helping their children. In 1995 she started a school with five children. Today, aside from this boarding school for HIV positive kids, Prajwala runs 17 schools across the city of Hyderabad with 5,000 children.
Dr. KRISHNAN: If this facility was not here today perhaps most of the girl children would be inducted into prostitution.

Dr. KRISHNAN: I would say eight or nine. The older children that you saw on the other floor are children who would have been easily procured for prostitution and most of the boys, right from the age of six or seven perhaps, would be pimping for their mothers.
She says about two million people are trafficked each year within India or from neighboring countries. Most are inducted into the sex trade at age 10 or even earlier, usually destined for big cities and tourist areas. Prajwala has developed a network of informants in the sex industry to help conduct what have become trademark brothel raids. Most of the young women rescued are already veterans of the trade. Many are actually very reticent.

Dr. KRISHNAN: There’s so much desensitization that has happened, so much normalization of exploitation that has happened, so much internalization of trauma that has happened. Most of the time, you know, they develop some very close attachments, and they will any day go back. Some of them would any day go back to their pimps or procurer than rather be with us.
In fact many do go back to a life that’s become normal, a familiar routine. But Prajwala has managed to coax 1,500 women out of prostitution. Peer counselors like 20-year-old Malini play a critical role.
MALINI (Peer Counselor, Prajwala, through translator): When we get the girls, they cry a lot. I ask why, and I tell them my own story, that this is what happened to me and I don’t want the same to happen to you.
Malani’s story is typical. There was abuse, poverty, and despair in her home. A seemingly helpful adult friend, often it’s a relative, offered the young daughter work in the big city. Instead, says Malini, she was sold into a brothel. The price the brothel paid for her then became the price she would have to pay for her freedom, paid from her brothel earnings. The accounting is elastic and entirely dictated by pimps or madams, as she found out months into her servitude.

MALINI (through translator): One day they told me, “There’s a small balance, and when you pay it off you’ll be free to go.” I asked how much, and they said 200,000 rupees. I got frightened. I said, “Why 200,000? I've been here so many months, and you've earned so much money from me.” They just beat me, so I ran away.
But running to the police in a city she didn't know, she encountered only more violence.
MALINI: When we asked the police, “Why are you hitting us?” they said “because you do this immoral work.” And I said, “Well, why are you catching us? You should go after our house madams, not us.” But they just beat us some more.
Official corruption has decreased in recent years. Prajwala’s rescue raids are now conducted with the police. At least part of this is due to pressure from Washington. The U.S. Justice Department publishes an annual T.I.P. or Trafficking in Persons report. Countries that show no improvement in cracking down run the risk of some trade sanctions.
Dr. KRISHNAN: At one level it irritates me to no end that my country would require somebody else from outside to tell them that this is a problem. That’s not the right way to go about it.

At the same time, she’s not shy in telling the U.S. and others what to do. Twenty-five percent of sex tourists in Asia are American, she says.
Dr. KRISHNAN: So one needs to ask questions in America also about why American people want small children to have sex with, and that if they don’t get it in their own countries, they seek it out in countries like Sri Lanka and India and Philippines. You’re about imposing sanctions on India, but have you also thought about imposing sanctions on your own country?
Krishnan says Washington has laws against sexual predators, even those that offend abroad. But she says it doesn’t enforce them enough. In India, her advocacy has strengthened laws to counter trafficking and to protect victims. Prajwala’s rescue raids are now conducted in many of the country’s major prostitution areas.
Dr. KRISHNAN: Most of these girls have spent many years in flesh trade, and this is a kind of a transit shelter.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN (through translator, lecturing to group of children): You’re not old yet, and at your age girls should remember a few important things: the way you dress, your behavior. How should that be? It should be acceptable to others. For example, the way you walk.
It will take months with lectures and skits to unlearn the sexualized behavior and demeanor they’ve acquired.
Dr. KRISHNAN (speaking in Hindi to group of girls): Hey girl, where are you going? Come here. How much do you want?
First, tell me, why did all of this happen?
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: If a girl’s good looking, people will make comments like that.
Dr. KRISHNAN (to unidentified girl): Do you think this happens to regular women?
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: No, it’s because of the way we’re dressed. That’s why they are saying that.

Young women like 19-year-old Abbas Bee are trained in traditional life skills and quite untraditional occupational ones. The goal is to find good-paying jobs, jobs rarely held by women in India. Prajwala itself runs a printing and metal workshop and that helps pay for its work, along with grants from UNICEF, Catholic Relief Services, and others.

Dr. KRISHNAN: We have trained young girls as welders, as carpenters, as printers, as bookbinders, as screen printers, as taxi drivers and auto drivers. We also train them as housekeepers to work in hotels and hospitals and things like that.
Their earnings make women like Abbas more eligible as brides, even though she, like perhaps 25 percent of women here, is HIV positive.
ABBAS BEE (Through Translator): I want to get married to a very kindhearted man, and I definitely want an HIV positive man, because I don’t want to ruin somebody’s life. He should be caring. If he is sick, I’ll take care of him, and if I’m sick, he’ll take care of me.
If she does get married, her wedding, like many others, will happen at Prajwala.
Dr. KRISHNAN: At any given point of time there is somebody pregnant, somebody delivering or somebody — something’s happening. So from birth to death, birth to death, we are the only linkage.


She tries to reconcile these women with their families, but for many Prajwala is the only family they know. It’s a daunting parental role for the 34-year-old Krishnan, one for which she calls deeply on her faith.
Dr. KRISHNAN: I am a practicing Hindu. I have this deep-rooted belief that my life is a providence by itself, and God has brought me in this world to do what I’m doing, and God will allow me to stay in this world so long as he believes that my mission is not done, and therefore I do believe that the day God believes that my work is done, I’ll be killed or I’ll die naturally, or whichever way that is possible.
Prostitution is a very lucrative organized crime she says. She’s been beaten up 14 times since starting Prajwala, the price for rescuing thousands of children from what she calls “the world’s oldest form of slavery.”
Sunitha Krishnan is the recipient of the 2011 Vital Voices Global Leadership Award for Human Rights. 
"I have this deep-rooted belief that my life is a providence by itself, and God has brought me in this world to do what I'm doing, and God will allow me to stay in this world so long as he believes that my mission is not done, and therefore I do believe that the day God believes that my work is done, I'll be killed or I'll die naturally, or whichever way that is possible"

"Each minute counts. Sometimes, we get information about minor girls, some as young as three, and by the time, we marshal the man power and police protection to mount a rescue operation, it would be too late to prevent the child from being sold into the flesh trade."

I have never let obstacles of any kind stop me from helping people from less privileged strata of society; something I used to do as a school student. In those days, I used to teach children in my neighbourhood. But, in my teens, when I was living with my parents Raju Krishnan and Nalini Krishnan in Bangalore, my attention turned towards women who were sexually exploited."

"Here's so much desensitization that has happened, so much normalization of exploitation that has happened, so much internalization of trauma that has happened."

"Sunitha Krishnan of Prajwala says that prejudiced people and so-called social conventions are the biggest battle that she and rescued trafficked women and girls have to face"

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Incredible India in the 1950's (RARE)

In 1950, the Constitution of India came into force. These rare monochrome photographs capture the essence of India, a newly fledged Republic.

Two men taking their morning wash at a public pump on the streets of Calcutta, India. 

As a priest reads from the scriptures food, symbolising wealth and fecundity, is placed in the hands of a bride.

Women labourers in the coalmining industry in India. A large number of them are employed in the industry but they work above ground

An Asian gives a friend a haircut, carefully shaving his scalp

A beggar sits in the middle of the street in Banares, India. 

Boats travelling the backwaters near Cochin, in the state of Kerala.

Crowds of pilgrims on the waterfront at Allabahd, India during Kumbha Melha, a month long Hindu bathing festival. 

Operators at work in the New Delhi Telephone Exchange.

Men bringing in man-drawn rickshaws to be added to the large number of them stacked up in front of the Deputy Commioner of Traffic's office at Madras after a ban forbidding their use. They are to be replaced by cycle rickshaws, a combination of rickshaw and bicycle

Emaciated beggars in the streets of Muttra, in India, where a famine is ravaging the population.

Sikh women worshippers, they are segregated from the men.

After a morning's bathe, a man grooms his water soaked hair.

Men bathe in the Hooghly River, Calcutta under the shadow of the Howrah bridge. 

Men having an early morning wash in Calcutta's busy Hooghly river, with its large freighters in the background.

A boatman propels his boat with a single oar along the Jumna river, in the background rises the Taj Mahal.

A young Indian girl and some friends. The Family Planning clinics being set up in India should bring a happier childhood and adult life to children like her.

Masseurs giving a chest massage to bathers after their morning dip.

A farmer and his oxcart trudge past the girders of the Howrah bridge over the Hooghly river in Calcutta.

In the forefront a water buffalo stands beside a tilled field, in the background the rear of the Taj Mahal and a small mosque also in the grounds.

A man buying fruit from a street stall in front of an advertising hoarding promoting several films in New Delhi, India

A man casting a net with weights tied to its edges into an irrigation ditch in India to catch small fish.

A steam locomotive on the narrow gauge mountain railway which runs between Darjeeling and Calcutta, India.

Monkey Into Space and Brought It Back Alive

Iran said today that it has successfully sent a monkey into orbit and brought it back alive, an announcement that if true would represent a major scientific accomplishment for the Islamic republic and mark the latest step in the nation's quest to put a man in space by the end of the decade. 

It should be noted, however, that the news came via state-run media and has not been independently confirmed. The initial report gave only vague details and provided no info on the timing or location of the launch or the landing. Still, the government offered at least a few pieces of photographic evidence to back up its story. 
 Still images broadcast on state TV showed a small, gray-tufted monkey presumably being prepared for the flight, including wearing a type of body protection and being strapped tightly into a pod that resembled an infant's car seat.

 The photos draw historical links to the earliest years of the space race in the 1950s when both the U.S. and Soviet Union tested the boundaries of rocket flight with animals on board, including American capsules carrying monkeys and Moscow's crafts holding dogs.

 Iran had previously sent smaller animals into space, including a rat and a several turtles, and had successfully launched three satellites over the past four years, according to the AFP. A previous attempt back in 2011 to put a monkey in space failed, although no reason was ever given.

The latest mission would appear to be the biggest breakthrough yet for the Iranian space program. For comparison, the United States was the first nation to successfully put a live monkey into space way back in 1949—although it would be another decade before we would bring one back to Earth alive. 

While Iran has long denied its space program—like its nuclear work—is directly tied to its military ambitions, it hasn't gone unnoticed in the Western world that the same technology used to launch a rocket into space can also be used in ballistic missiles. [Update 10:31 a.m.: In case that link wasn't clear enough, an Iranian commander told state reporters in a separate announcement today that the nation plans to unveil new "long, intermediate and short-range missiles" sometime early next month.

Boat Made of Bottles

An alternative to the recycling of plastic bottles info laying along the coast and on roadsides, Tom Davis from the island of Fiji suggested using them to build boats. To create your own crockery he had the 600 bottles. Boat 4.5 meters long and 1.4 meters wide, can accommodate three men. 

Millionaire Cleans Streets to Set Example for Her Children

In the 1980s, Yu Youzhen was merely an ordinary vegetable farmer in Wuhan City Hongshan District Donghu Village Huojiawa who, after years of building and additions, came to possess three 5-storey private buildings, most of which were rented out. In 2008, Yu Youzhen chanced upon [government policies for] the requisition, demolition, and redevelopment of land [mostly takes place in rural areas, where when a peasant’s land is expropriated by the government and the peasant is compensated for it with new houses or apartments in other locations] and was successively given 21 apartments [for her previous property]. Yu Youzhen personally witnessed some of her fellow villagers not engaging themselves in decent activities after being compensated with multiple apartments, falling into gambling, and even drug use. In order to set a good example for her children, from 1998 onwards, the now landless Yu Youzhen went to Wuchang District Chengguan Bureau to work as a sanitation worker, with a 1,420 yuan monthly salary, only one day off each week, and having to arrive for work 3 every morning.

Yu Youzhen is a contract worker for the Wuchang District Chengguan Bureau Cleaning Team, with a 1,420 yuan monthly wage. Her household had 21 apartments in total but later successively sold 4 of them, with 17 left. Calculated according to market prices, she is literally a “millionaire woman”. This picture is of January 2, in Wuhan, of “rich woman” sanitation worker Mrs. Yu cleaning the street. 

Yu Youzhen is responsible for the sanitation of an approximately 3,000-meter long stretch of road, sweeping along its length back and forth 6 hours every day, wiping and washing 8 trashcans. Since it’s cold outside, a thin layer of ice forms on the surface of the trashcan that as Yu Youzhen just bent down to wipe with a wet rag.

In the 1980s, Yu Youzhen was a vegetable grower in Hongshan District Donghu Village Huojiawan. She and her husband worked from dawn to night to make and save money, becoming the first family to build a 3-storey private house in Huojiawan. With more and more people coming to work in Wuhan from out of town, Yu Youzhen used the spare rooms for rental. By the early 1990s, each room could bring in 50 yuan each month. After saving this money, she built more buildings and added more floors, and over several years, she had three 5-storey buildings, most of which used for rentals. She said that during those years, the regulations on constructing buildings in rural areas were loose, and everyone built houses. What she didn’t expect was that in 2008, the [policies of] requisitioning and redevelopment of land began, and she was successively given 21 apartments [as compensation for her requisitioned and redeveloped buildings]. Later on, she sold 4 of them.

From 1998 onwards, the now landless Yu Youzhen went to the Wuchang District Chengguan Bureau to work as a sanitation worker, with only one day off each week, and having to arrive for work at 3 in the morning. Although later she became a “rich woman”, she still hasn’t put down her broom. In her work, people often give her cold looks, but she still loves what she does. Many of her co-workers in the cleaning team don’t understand: “Mrs. Yu’s family is so rich, yet still she comes to put up with this suffering!” To this, Yu Youzhen has her own explanation: “I want to set an example for my son and daughter, a person can’t just sit at home and ‘eat away’ a whole fortune.”

Yu Youzhen witnessed with her own eyes some of her fellow villagers getting up to no good after getting multiple apartments from their land being requisitioned [by the government], indulging themselves in gambling, even drug use. She has already put the word out to her son and daughter: “If you don’t work, I’ll donate the apartments to the country.”

Now, her son works as a driver in the Donghu Scenic Area, making an over 2,000 yuan monthly salary. Her daughter too is an office worker, with an over 3,000 yuan monthly salary.