Based in Hyderabad, India, Sunitha Krishnan is the co-founder of Prajwala (Eternal Flame), a group that rescues women and children from brothels and provides quality education to the children of prostitutes.
It stands upon five pillars: prevention, rescue, rehabilitation, reintegration and advocacy. Each pillar plays an integral role in a strategy developed over 14 years by dedicated staff and myriad partners.
To stop commercial sexual exploitation before it starts, Prajwala operates a network of 18 schools in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Sunitha also leads community-based efforts that take her staff and volunteers into slums, villages, schools and colleges where they identify and connect with at-risk women and children. They know prevention is more effective than a cure.
Rescue and recovery teams coordinate with the police to infiltrate unlawful brothels. To date, Prajwala has rescued more than 4,636 women and children, 2,000 of whom Sunitha liberated personally.
Sunitha’s greatest challenge is facilitating the acceptance of survivors back into society. Prajwala’s economic recovery program offers sustainable livelihood options and reintegration services. Survivors receive training as welders, carpenters and other vocations. Corporate partners provide traditional training and job placements that pay wages above the national average.
Sunitha helps state authorities shape anti-trafficking policies and four years ago Andhra Pradesh she drafted establishing minimum standards of care that shelters and service providers must meet.
A world free of exploitation comes at a heavy price. Traffickers in persons is the third most lucrative criminal enterprise in the world and traffickers view Sunitha as a threat. She has been beaten-up 14 times. She has been the victim of acid attacks and receives regular death threats.
When asked what keeps her going she doesn’t hesitate.
“I live for the smiles of the children. I live for the hope in their eyes.”