If anyone embodies the resilience and indomitable strength of the human spirit, it’s Indira Gurung, recent winner of everywoman in Travel’s International Inspiration award.
At the age of 13, Gurung became a victim of human trafficking. She is one of 7,000 women and girls who are trafficked into Nepal’s sex industry each year.
Determined to help others, Gurung became a founding member of SASANE, a survivor-led, non-profit organisation aiming to end physical and sexual exploitation of Nepalese women.
Through SASANE, Gurung qualified as a paralegal, then worked on the eastern border of India to prevent trafficking and provide counselling to victims.
To date, SASANE has worked with 400 survivors, training them as paralegals and empowering them to find justice for themselves and others.
Women are also trained as tour guides and hospitality staff, helping them gain financial independence through tourism.
“I wanted to be independent, but alone it was impossible,” says Gurung. “When I was in trouble I didn’t have any idea what to do. One voice can’t be heard, but as a group the voice is louder. We can share the fight and support each other.”
Gurung adds the training the women receive helps them become aware of their rights. “If [women] are legally aware, they know their fundamental rights.”
Many of the women see SASANE as a vital support network, she continues: “When survivors come out of trouble, they are afraid to go home. SASANE is like a family, a second home.”
Agents and their clients can help Nepalese victims of sex trafficking to have a brighter future.
In 2013, G Adventures and the Planeterra Foundation started working with SASANE through its Sisterhood of Survivors programme.
Today, 11 G Adventures Nepal itineraries visit SASANE, with clients learning how to make dishes with the women.
Funds are invested into education programmes to help continue empowering survivors.
Gurung says meeting travellers can have a lasting impact. “The [women] are very happy to interact with travellers. In Nepalese society, they don’t respect survivors. When the women interact with travellers, they feel respected and confident.”
“It also helps me to get justice and empowers me to stand up for myself”
She adds her own work with SASANE has helped her look to the future.
“My involvement with SASANE helped me to fight against my troubles. It also helps me to get justice and empowers me to stand up for myself. I can protect myself and help others to protect themselves.”
She describes the award win as “inspiring for me and my group. Now we can continue to go forward”.
Her long-term aspiration is to end human trafficking and sexual violence in Nepal. “We believe survivors have immense potential to combat exploitation. SASANE helps reintegrate [women] into society and helps them survive.”
She adds while progress is slow in Nepal, SASANE is helping to make progress.
“In Nepal we have a strong law on paper but the implementation is difficult. Before I started training as a paralegal, the police didn’t believe us. Now they do. We are seeing a change in attitude. There is hope for the future.”
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