Anti-trafficking activist Ruchira Gupta receives Alnoba Leadership Award along with other trailblazers

Indian journalist and activist Ruchira Gupta, who founded the anti-trafficking women’s empowerment nonprofit Apne Aap Women Worldwide, was honoured yesterday with an award in New Hampshire aimed at recognising “fierce visionary leaders”.

Gupta is among five leaders presented the Alnoba Leadership Awards, instituted in 2018 by Alan E. Lewis, founder of Alnoba Lewis Family Foundation, Pinnacle Leadership and Team Development, Grand Circle Corp. and Kensington Investment Co.

The Lewis family presented the awards on 4 October at the Alnoba conference centre that was earlier their home in Kensington, New Hampshire, according to a report in The Business Journals. Each leader received their own specific award within the series.

Gupta received the Moment of Truth Award for Leadership for Gender Equity. “For more than three decades, Ruchira Gupta has campaigned for a world where no girl or woman is bought or sold… To date she has helped more than 20,000 women and girls escape prostitution,” the report said.

After encountering the issue of girls missing from entire villages in Nepal, Gupta began reporting on the issue, exposing how girls as young as 12 were smuggled into India and sold in brothels. This led to her 1997 documentary The Selling of Innocents, which won an Emmy for Outstanding Investigative Journalism.

“I’m deeply touched to receive the Alnoba Gender Equity Leadership Award. This honour serves as both validation and a call to action to protect ‘The Last Girl,’ the one most vulnerable to trafficking,” said Gupta after the event.

“The award not only amplifies the urgency to end child exploitation and empower women but also helps me reach new communities in my mission to eradicate sex trafficking. It poignantly reaffirms that our freedoms and the fight for gender equity are inextricably linked,” she added.

Gupta’s recently published debut fiction novel I Kick and I Fly is based on the true stories she came across in her work. She was recently a featured speaker at a webinar held to mark the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. The discussion, organised by the Southasia Peace Action Network, Sapan, aimed to build solidarity across borders on the issue of trafficking of girls and women in Southasia.

“Poverty, lack of education, gender inequality, and social discrimination contribute to the vulnerability of Southasian women and girls. Traffickers deceive them with false promises of employment opportunities, only to sell them into brothels across national borders,” notes the Southasia Peace media advisory on the discussion.

“Daring leadership is to me the courage to stand up for what I believe is right and continuing to stand up even when I fail because without failure there can be no success,” says Gupta.

The only other international leader to receive the Alnoba International Indigenous Leadership Award this year is Brazilian teacher, poet and activist Célia Xakriabá, Indigenous Representative, Brazil Chamber of Deputies. 

Among the first Indigenous people to be elected to Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies, she was a founder of the National Association of Ancestral Indigenous Women Warriors (ANMIGA). She helped to found a movement based on Indigenous ancestry and wisdom, besides expanding Brazil’s educational system to include teaching Indigenous history, land rights and traditional knowledge shared collectively.

Other awardees include Bradley M. Campbell, president of Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), getting the Alan E. Lewis Moral Courage Leadership Award for his work in shaping the “most significant environmental policies and laws” in the US.

Campbell’s Foundation has taken on ExxonMobil, Shell and Gulf Oil and launched the United States’ first legal action for clean water act violations at its oil storage facility in Everett on the Mystic River. Exxon Mobil closed their facility last year.

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