Monday, June 12, 2017

A Run to Remember: The Race Against Sex Trafficking

Written By: Kruppa Raghuraman
Program Intern, World Affairs Council of Atlanta
Student, Georgia State University
Published: 6/12/2017
During the summer after my sophomore year of high school, my family and I had finally decided to take a visit to India, the country I was born in. The year was 2015 and it had been at least seven years since we had last visited. When I learned that we were going to India, I was filled with excitement and kept daydreaming about how fun it would be. Living in America made me miss the festivals celebrated in India. The way my family and I celebrate them in the United States is much different from how they are celebrated there because, in India, each festival is a national holiday where everyone celebrates with one another. To my dismay, the period we were going to visit was not a time where there were many Indian festivals. But aside from the celebrations, I was more ecstatic to finally see my relatives and friends after seven long years.

The next thing I knew, we were all getting ready to get on the flight to India. My heart was beating faster as we kept getting closer to the airport. It felt as though it would burst out of excitement. Before I knew it, we were sitting on the plane quietly anticipating the arrival to our motherland. However, all of my fantasizing came from the memories of my younger self. I had to forgotten to take into account how much the country would have changed after almost a decade. After spending a couple days in India, I realized that it wasn’t the same as my memories – a joyful and happy place full of celebrations and positivity. I was wrong, with the positives came the negatives. It was insanely crowded, unbearably hot, and some people were even disrespectful to the elders. And there was too much cat-calling. That struck me as something odd. I thought, if these men could whistle and cat-call girls who are so young, then what else could they do? This was a question that constantly popped into my head every time my family and I had to go to a store or even a restaurant. But these questions were quickly distracted by spending time with relatives, friends, and just being a curious tourist in my own country.

With a blink of an eye, one month of experiencing India had sprinted by and I left with a heavy heart. As soon as I came back to the United States, that one question began haunting me again. There seemed to be a bigger picture attached to it. To be cat-called and whistled at is not typically something girls, especially young girls, would look much into since the guys aren’t physically doing any harm. But the larger question remained that if a man could freely do this to little girls, they could probably do much worse. That’s when the real search began. The first thing I googled was “Top 10 dangers for women living in India,” and one of the first things that came up was the “Red Light District.” I was shocked, confused, and just saddened by the results. It was an area where illegal human trafficking was taking place. The more I researched, the more disappointed and angry I became. Angry at society for allowing such things to happen to innocent girls and young women who are forced or not even aware of what they are getting into. The worst part was that the victims of trafficking were ones who were in desperate need of money to save their families. It’s as though they had fallen into a trap in which they couldn’t escape from. While doing the research, I decided to talk to one of my very close friends about how this is such a huge problem in India and how millions are affected by it.

We decided to take action. The first thing we did was make a decision on how we could help these victims. Soon, the idea struck us to organize a 5K walk/run. We looked up organizations in the Atlanta area that helped fight human trafficking and found Oasis of Life International. We wanted to be a part of something that fights to end sex slavery and joined alongside them to rescue and rehabilitate the victims of human trafficking.

The process of organizing and facilitating the 5K was not easy along with school and other extracurricular activities I was involved in, but my mission was to help those who were not able to help themselves. Together, my friend and I raised more than $2,000 for the cause, and it was one of the most memorable days of my life. 

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