Friday, December 23, 2011

A Message from Gloria Steinem to the Public Regarding the Trafficking of Girls and Women

While I wish it were the case that Western whites asking for money wasn't necessary to achieve justice and liberation for all girls and women worldwide, it remains the case that whites asking for money to support the activism of women of color is an on-going necessity. This is so in large part because whites in the West have much more money than people of color in the West, and whites listen to whites more than to people of color, especially female people of color.

With gratitude to all the women and girls, white and of color, who work so hard to liberate women and girls from systems of gross exploitation, economic abuse, and misogynistic harm.

I was what follows by email and may also be found *here*:

Apne Aap International

Dear Friend of Women and Girls, 
Many things have changed in the years since I lived in India as a student, but one thing that has continued - and grown worse as the worldwide network of sex trafficking has spread - is the destruction of the lives of women and girls bought and sold in the sex industry.
When I go back to the India that I love - the world's largest democracy, one in which a greater percentage of people vote than in the United States - I know I can go to a section of all major cities and see young women lined up in the street like cattle. If I look through the doorways of brothels in, say, Sonagachi, the main sex trafficking district of Kolkata, I can see the little girls of six or ten that brothel owners tell reporters don't exist.
Among the brave people in India fighting this lethal sex trafficking industry is my friend Ruchira Gupta. A journalist herself, Ruchira was reporting on rural poverty, and was surprised to find villages with almost no young girls and women. When she asked why, she was told, "Don't you know?  They've all been taken to Mumbai and Kolkata."
Once she discovered the depth of this reality for at least three million women and girls in India - entrapped, de-humanized and often sent to an early death by injury, despair and disease - she started Apne Aap, which means Self Help; a healing and respectful safe place where women and girls could find refuge, support, advocacy, community and skills to support themselves and their children.
Ten years later, Apne Aap Women Worldwide has grown into a model for anti-sex trafficking activists in other countries. It now has centers in New Delhi and Bihar, as well as Kolkata, and it supports human rights against the sex trafficking and prostitution industry, from working for legislation and law enforcement at the top to offering alternatives and community at the bottom.
The truth is that if Apne Aap had as many supporters outside India as the brothel owners have foreign customers - men from rich countries who literally buy "sex tours" to exploit the poverty of women and children in India - Apne Aap would win.
At an Apne Aap community center, each woman and girl gains access to vocational training, literacy classes, basic education, and learning about her rights and how to recognize when they've been denied. She learns how to file a police report. And I'm proud to announce that in the last year, four teenage girls campaigned against their traffickers and helped to put those criminals behind bars. This is the way the law should function, but sadly, this story is the exception.
In addition to your financial contribution, Apne Aap appeals for your support to help strengthen the Indian anti-trafficking law, the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act. By signing on, you will be joining Apne Aap's thousands of members in asking for measures that protect girls and women, and impose realistic penalties on the pimps, johns, and traffickers who exploit them. Click here to sign the petition. 
I am personally inspired by the bravery, wisdom, innovation and impact of this small organization. It has transformed the scared, abused, uneducated girls and women I met when I first visited India into women who are speaking out for themselves and for others, from the halls of government to international survivors' conferences.
I ask for your support for all the women of Apne Aap. They have given you and me a practical, hopeful way out of the worldwide human rights abuse of sex trafficking.
No longer will you feel helpless, with nowhere to start, when you see and read the news.
And that is a gift in itself -- for you -- or for friends and family in whose name you contribute.
With new hope,

Gloria Steinem
Advisory Committee Chair
Apne Aap Women Worldwide

Gloria in Forbesganj  
** Donations made in India to Apne Aap Women Worldwide or in the United States to Apne Aap International are tax deductible.

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