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Rising From the Ashes

9 months ago / by Swarnendu Basu

How Anuradha Koirala became a defender of human-trafficking victims

Nepali social activist Anuradha Koirala went from being a victim of domestic abuse to a champion of its survivors when he set up Maiti Nepal (maiti means mother in Nepali), a non-profit organization that helps women and child victims of sex trafficking.

Koirala became the first governor of the Bagmati Province of Nepal in January 2018.

The Early Years

Koirala, was born April 14, 1949 in Rumjatar, located in the Okhaldhunga district of Nepal, the first child of Colonel Pratap Singh Gurung and Laxmi Devi. After studying at St. Joseph Convent School in Kalimpong, India, she taught English in different schools in Kathmandu for 20 years.

Married young, Koirala endured domestic abuse that she believes resulted in three miscarriages and having one child, before leaving her husband. It was that experience that spurred her to set up an organization to help women who have nowhere to go.

Refuge and Rehabilitation

In 1993, Koirala set up Maiti Nepal, using a small house in Kathmandu as a rehabilitation center for victims of domestic abuse and human trafficking.

Over the years, Maiti Nepal has been a refuge for thousands of women and girls rescued from brothels to live at till they are self-sufficient or finally able to return to homes where they may not be not accepted by their parents and society. It now includes a rehabilitation home in Kathmandu, transit homes in Indo-Nepal border towns, preventive homes in the countryside, and an academy in Kathmandu.

In the last three decades, Maiti Nepal has helped rescue and rehabilitate more than 50,000 women and girls.

Expanding the Effort

Over the years, besides rescuing trafficked girls, Maiti Nepal has helped catch traffickers, provide legal support to the needy, organize social awareness program, and provide antiretroviral therapy to those with HIV/AIDS. It also helps reunite rescued women and girl with their families, and to patrol the Indo-Nepal border with police and other law enforcement authorities. 

Koirala’s work has got attention from the government, helping to significantly reduce human trafficking from Nepal compared to numbers seen in the 1990s. Thanks to her efforts, Nepal now recognizes September 5 as National Anti-Human Trafficking Day.