Givology Staff's Blog

Interview with Ruchira Gupta (Apne Aap Founder)

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Givology is ecstatic to partner with Apne Aap Women World Wide, a grassroots organization that targets to end sex trafficking. Givology fully supports Apne Aap’s mission and visions. The courageous Ruchira Gutpa, founder of Apne Aap, began as a journalist and traveled to Nepal. When she was in Nepal and she came across loads of villages that did not have young women. After being perplexed, she ask some local men that were gambling and playing cards, “where are the girls?” Some of the men smiled sheepishly and responded “don’t you know they are in Bombay?” She began to explore what was going on; Ruchira stated “to my horror I found that the sex trade still exist.” It starts with poor farmers that lack education. An agent from this sex industry would pay the parents or families a low price to buy their daughter, similar to $50. The agents tell the fathers that they can offer their daughters a job in the cities or even a marriage. They even tell the girls’ father that your daughter is staving and she can be prostituted but at least she will have a bed and food. The agent then takes the girls across the border and transports them to Bombay. The brothel is the person who buys the girls from these agents. They would negotiate the price of these girls based on their beauty, skin color and age. The girls are locked up in 4x4 rooms for 5 years with iron bar windows where they would be raped by 8-10 customers a day. These girls were a kilometer away from the beach in Bombay but these girls have never seen the sea.
Ruchira mentions the youngest girl she has met was a girl aged seven. These girls would be forced to have children so their children could be kept in the industry. The brothel brainwashes the girls that they were devalued and nobody will transport them home. Ruchira states “[the girls] forgot the possibility of even trying to escape this situation.” Then there are the landlords who own the brothels, the money-lenders and then finally the customers. This whole chain is considered an industry with a never-ending supply to making a fortune. “I was a journalist, I have covered war, I covered famine, I covered hunger, I covered conflict, but I have never seen this level of exploitation of one human being by another. I was really angry, as a woman, a citizen of India, a citizen of the world” This is happening “in my lifetime, in my generation, in my country” declared Ruchria.
Ruchira spent 18 months on the research and filming of the Emmy award-winning documentary [i]The Selling of Innocence. [/i]During the filming period, one of the brothel pull out a knife on Ruchira and asked her, “Why are you here? You cannot film this.” However, the women from prostitution started to surround Ruchira and told the brothel “it is our story and we want her to tell it.” Ruchira passionately spoke about how life changing this documentary was to her. She formed friendships with the girls in prostitution. As a woman herself, Ruchira understood their stories, their jokes and their dreams. The woman told Ruchira that they do not want to see this happen to their daughters. They wanted a school for their children, a job and an office, a voice, legal protection, justice and a room of their own “just like Virginia Wolf” quoted Ruchira. This was how Apne Aap Women World Wide was born.
Apne Aap organizes small groups of women and girls who are at the risk of or those who were affected by trafficking into self-empowerment groups in that enables them to access fundamental rights such as education, dignified livelihood and legal empowerment. Ruchira proudly announced that Apne Aap has impacted over 10,000 females and continues to impact more. Apne Aap is making an effort in breaking the cycle of poverty and discrimination that forces women into prostitution.
Apne Aap means “self-empowerment” in Hindi because “we believe we can help ourselves by helping each other” said stated Ruchria. When Ruchira was asked how Apne Aap is changes the lives of the women, she answered “the 10 assets.” The 10 assets are both intangible and tangible. These assets combine work in grassroots to initiate change in policy. The ten key Assets are: access to a safe community space, access to nine friends for collective empowerment, access to an education for self and children, ability to express self-confidence and allow their voices to be heard, courage and tactics to express one’s problem to the government and legal authorities, knowledge and courage for political participation, access to learn about financial stability, capacity for a dignified livelihood, legal empowerment and access to government programs and services. Apne Aap teaches young girls vocational skills, job training skills, and jewelry-making, computer skills and more. Apne Aap sends girls to colleges and allows them to fully flourish instead of being trapped in the sex industry. The [i]Red Light Dispatch [/i]is[i] [/i]a monthly newsletter written by women who suffered from prostitution and those who live in red light areas of India. Prior to Apne Aap, most of these women did not have a voice in even their own lives, until now. They are gradually learning that their stories are the most powerful force in the movement to end sex trafficking.
Being the fearless leader she is, Ruchira and the Apne Aap staff often face threatening challenges. Few challenges included the brothel and agents snatching the girls from Apne Aap and performing violent actions against Apne Aap’s staff. One of the staff members was arrested by corrupted police officers and other staff members have been stabbed. Another challenge is “society’s attitude toward the sex industry,” announced Ruchira. Society thinks prostitution is inevitable and normal. They claim that prostitution is a legalized system and situation for women will improve. However, as women age, they are not as “valued” in prostitution. They get kicked out because new younger girls are replacing them. The older women are left on the streets and “slowly die.”
Apne Aap is constantly altering the attitudes of society and bringing change on the Indian government. The campaign “Cool Men Don’t Buy Sex” highlights the role of men in cultivating the sex industry. Without the demand of men buying sex, the sex industry would be driven out of business. The “Cool Men Don’t Buy Sex” campaign successfully reached 10,000 signatures and initiated the office of the president of India and the Ministry of Women and Child to review the petition. To join this campaign, start by signing the petition, wear the wristband, listen to the podcast, spread public awareness through social media and donate. (For more information, visit [url=http://apneaap.org/]http://apneaap.org/[/url]) The goal of this campaign is to bring about societal change and legal change.
The heroic Ruchira advises to not look at actions as how big or how small they are, instead, look at it because it matters and it will make a difference. Apne Aap is able to transform women that were victims into leaders. Let’s combine our joined efforts to help end the cycle of prostitution, by preventing the trafficking of girls and enriching those who were prostituted.

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[i]For more information, please visit and support Apne Aap at [/i][url=http://apneaap.org/][i]http://apneaap.org/[/i][/url]
[i]Ruchria Gupta Ted Talk [/i][url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIRgJ1BeQ2g][i]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIRgJ1BeQ2g[/i][/url]
[i]Selling of Innocence Clip [/i][url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O41xK3nUjDg][i]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O41xK3nUjDg[/i][/url]
[i]Cool Men Don’t Buy Sex Campaign [/i][url=http://apneaap.org/our-approach/cool-men-dont-buy-sex-campaign/][i]http://apneaap.org/our-approach/cool-men-dont-buy-sex-campaign/[/i][/url]

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