Since 2005, 2013 Honoree Triveni Acharya has fearlessly led the way in rescuing more than 4,000 victims of child trafficking in India through her organization, Rescue Foundation. One of those children is 17-year-old Leena who was rescued from a brothel in Delhi in 2010. An affectionate and helpful girl, Leena is now recovering from her experiences, and helping Triveni rescue other girls who are trapped in similar situations. Here is her story:
Leena grew up in a very poor family with four other siblings. Her father was the sole breadwinner of the family, earning a small income as an agricultural laborer. As the second eldest child, Leena often felt the need to help her father. As a result, she willingly dropped out of school to work as a field hand.
When she turned 13, a much older man asked Leena’s father for permission to marry her. Initially, he didn’t approve because of the age difference; but he eventually succumbed to the idea since he thought it would make things easier for his family if they had one less child to care for.
A few months after they were married, Leena’s husband was killed in an encounter with the police. Leena’s mother-in-law became abusive, so she returned home. However, her father now considered her to be an unwanted burden.
One day, a neighbor told Leena that she should migrate to Delhi where she could find a job to sustain herself. Leena agreed, and shortly thereafter, her neighbor accompanied her to a bus that would take her to Delhi. However, once she reached Delhi, the driver handed her over to another man who sold her to a brothel. For two months, she was physically tortured and brainwashed by the brothel owner in order to force her to become a prostitute. Whenever she tried to escape, she was caught and beaten.
In desperation, she pleaded with the brothel’s customers to help her. Finally, one customer informed the Rescue Foundation and the police.
Every year, thousands of children like Leena are rescued by Triveni and her team at Rescue Foundation. Though forgetting such horrible experiences is impossible, Rescue Foundation gives children the support, safety and loving care they need to begin to move on.
Today, Leena lives in one of Rescue Foundation’s safe houses, where she is receiving vocational training, counseling and health care. She has bravely volunteered to help with other rescue operations, and often counsels other girls who have recently escaped. She also conducts a children’s rights group and provides first aid to rescued victims who are infected with HIV.
Leena’s future plans? Continuing to rescue other girls, and doing everything she can to give each of them a new life.
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