Today is International Women's Day, and in the anti-trafficking field, we have a lot to celebrate. When I first got involved in this issue 15 years ago, public awareness as well as government response were low to non-existent. When I first told my friends I was starting an agency to fight human trafficking, most didn't know what those words meant. "You mean drug trafficking?" or "You mean people who have been in traffic accidents?," people would ask.
In India, a lack of public awareness was compounded by shame and stigma surrounding trafficking and the girls victimized by it. People would physically recoil from me when I told them that I was working to help girls in red light areas. The government and police were usually part of the problem, not the solution. Today, the Indian government is taking steps to fight and prevent trafficking and support victims. Repatriation to Bangladesh or Nepal is much easier because those countries are now willing to accept back their citizens who were trafficked to India. There are more programs for survivors - both governmental and charity-based. There is more money in government budgets, and better laws on the books - both in the US and in South Asia - to fight trafficking.
Things are far from perfect, but they are improving. Heroic, ordinary women, and men, all over the world have made this change possible, and that is something for us all to celebrate.
Let's empower the next generation of women leaders to create a more just world!
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