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Meet Sunitha Krishnan: The Lady Who Personifies Courage

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By Sneha Roychoudhury:

We talk. We discuss. We sit in fancy bourgeoisie drawing-rooms and click our tongues over the wrongs that have been committed and the ones yet to be made. The helplessness. The futility. And then, from one of these homes, one of these rooms filled with men and women whose idea of change is limited to a passing discussion over a meal, there rises a name, a person, an instrument of social change who pushes for all that truly and really makes a difference, all that changes lives and touches souls.

sunitha krishnana

It is our choices… that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – J. K. Rowling

Some years back one woman made a singular choice, a life decision- she recognised a calling and pushed her head above shoulders, shoulders trying to smother her and suffocate her, to follow what meant much more to her that the tragedy entwining her own life did. Sunitha Krishnan, a rather eminent social activist, remains to be a role model for so many in our generation and for all those yet to come. She, with her contribution and the stand she takes, opens out doors of dreams, of aspirations and ambitions, of awe inspiring direction- all of which are actually at arm’s length for each one of us if only we have the courage and the vision to stretch our hands and to grab what we want.

Born in Bangalore, Karnataka, Sunitha Krishnan was sexually abused by eight men when she was fifteen. This, however, she recalls, served as an impetus to who she is and the cause she serves today. Much has been written and said about her work for sex workers and her vocal protest against human trafficking through Prajwala, the NGO she co-founded and one could possibly not have elaborated enough on her absolutely undaunted effort in her course of action. My article, though focussing on all the elements of this undying contribution, must rekindle a different faith, must light a small lamp in a heart, in a soul and in a mind that does want to steer into motion the wheels of substantial change in a society we all know is folly and ridden with sorry vices. This is the tale, the portrait of that woman who was socially shunned and emotionally and physically wasted, a woman who made her losses and her grief the strength of her ideas, a person who made it her life to protect all those who have gone through the plight (or worse) that she had faced.

“The sense of loneliness that goes with that was a very interesting firsthand experience for me and it helped consolidate my thinking. I learned exactly what my women and children go through and therefore all my efforts, my life, my breath, my being was then dedicated to that.” -Sunitha Krishnan

Termed many a times as a woman entrepreneur, Krishnan has made her mark through sheer will, which she used to raise women stuck in dingy, surly lives as sex-workers or trafficked slaves from their social standing and give them the dignity and the independence they are entirely entitled to. Her organisation strives to vocationally train such women, fund treatment for their children and give them an existence and a livelihood they could never have imagined possible. There are very few times that human sensitivity is directed towards those fringes of the race that are considered vestigial. Fewer times still when this sensitivity is transferred into action and Sunitha Krishnan is one such rare occasion- the singular occurrence that followed a road towards the improvement of the discarded and the ostracised, the unwanted and the unaccepted. She embraced those who had only known the hardships and never realised there could exist better circumstances for them, who didn’t know any better for all that their heart felt was crushed under the pain they have known and been through.

The example she sets to the nation at large and the rest of the world cannot ever be reflected by recognition, for mankind can only try, only try to thank and express their gratitude to such determined, brave hearts. Sunitha Krishnan has been awarded the Global Leadership Award, the Real Heroes Award and the Safdar Hashmi Awards for Human Rights. But, like I mentioned earlier, there can be no words or no gesture great enough to coronate such people, for they are the ones who have risen and soared, they have been born as phoenixes- from the ashes of their dead past, however traumatic- and healed the lives of others in immense, agonising situations. There is a reason they are deified. There is a reason they are different. It is a fire we generally call courage.

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  1. Abhinita Mohanty

    I love her for whatever she is doing today and for whatever she stands…..she is ‘the true heroine’ in every sense…..after so much of struggle and even after being raped……she came in terms wit it….gals must realize that rape is not the end. Sunitha’s struggle 2 end child trafficking is remarkable….hats off!!

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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