Ms Sunita Danuwar, a leading social activist, was a victim of human trafficking. As such, she is a shining example of a massive transformation, one which led her to be a counsellor and advocate for girls suffering the same fate. In fact, she is the founder member and current president of Shakti Samuha, a non-governmental organization. Together with fourteen girls, originally from Nepal and all rescued from brothels in India, she personifies a ray of hope which acts as inspiration to all victims of such horrendous crimes. Her contribution to humanity should be respected by all. Shakti Samuha has evolved into the first shelter for survivors from human trafficking in Nepal, one, that has been run with dignity by the victims with extra-ordinary love and forgiveness, so that it was awarded the well-deserved Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2013.
Sunita was born to Mr. Ganga Ban and Mrs. Chandrakala Ban on 16th of July 1977 in Kasigadh VDC, Dailekh district which is located in the western remote rural part of Nepal. She was 5 years old, when she had already lost six siblings including one younger brother and one younger sister due to poverty and malnutrition. Her mother then forced the family to leave Dailekh as she believed the cause of death of her six children was due to witchcraft and black magic. Her family then migrated to Jammu and Kashmir, the northern part of India and took a land in lease for potato farming. The days were going well for nine years, until her family felt cheated again. This time her only brother went missing along with her uncle. After a couple of years, her family set for Nainital, as they suspected this was the place where they would locate her missing brother. On the way to Nainital, they met two Nepalese men who befriended the family; it was later these same men sold Sunita in Mumbai at the age of 14.
Because of poverty, Sunita Danuwar couldn't have the opportunity to go to school when she was young.It is still common practice in remote area and poor family of urban area of Nepal that daughters never fall in priority to get formal education.Probably, the same practice and thinking ruled her family, her only brother used to go school.One day she followed her brother, but she returned with bitter experience as a young kid. One of the school teacher shouted at her brother saying Sunita doesn't know anything, so she shouldn't have come school. From next day, she stopped to go school and after migrating to India also, she didn't have the chance to go school, as her family couldn't afford with main priority being making life.However, she learnt Nepali alphabet and numbers from her dad at home.
Sunita always had a keen interest to get educated, so she joined seventh grade in 2001 in Kathmandu, Nepal after she returned from the brothels in Mumbai, India. She continued for two years till she was at ninth grade with the support of the donor of Shakti Samuha. She then had to discontinue her education in 2003 as the financial support ceased and she could not afford it herself. Her inner craving and passion to get formal education was eating her alive. So she again managed to get tuition class for four months in 2009 and she attended SLC, the final class of schooling in Nepal and sat the exam to which is considered as an iron gate to join colleges. To her surprise, she succeeded and she has no bounds of happiness with this success. Sunita then joined IA(Intermediate of Arts) in Padma Kanya college, Kathmandu and completed in two year regular class without any disturbance in 2012. She is currently studying Bachelor in Social Works (BSW) in Kadambery Academy, Kathmandu and if the time and circumstances permit, she says she will never take a break in study until she gets to her final destination and achieves her set out goals.
Although poverty and loss of family members would shower grief and pain in her family, life was going well in terms of love and warmth from elders until she turned into 14 years old.Life took a harsh turn, when her brother went missing and family followed to track him.On the way to Nainital, suspected place of her brother, her family had to stop Almora,Uttarakhand to make some money for journey by collecting rocks and pebbles from riverside. In Almora, they met two Nepali tractor drivers who would call Sunita, a sister and her parents would say them "babu", which is a lovely and respectful word for male in Nepali society. They would suggest Sunita to not become burden to her parents and become independent. In between, those Nepali tractor drivers, who were in their early twenties, grew intimacy with her family. One day, when her family collected enough money to go Nainital to find her brother, they decided to leave Almorah and stayed in roadside hotel to catch early morning bus. Those tractor drivers also decided to stay same hotel and expressed their interest to assist her family in finding her missing brother.
The same night, after lunch, those tractor drivers offered Sunita "mithai", a sweet savoury in Nepali ,but she refused to take it. After that, they offered ladoo to her dad and as her dad was ok after having ladoo he convinced her to have it, she couldn't deny her dad's request and ate that ladoo. Sunita didn't know that will be her last moment with her parents, because those ladoos were mixed with some drug to make Sunita unconscious.
All of a sudden, when Sunita opened her eyes, she found herself in a strange environment, men were staring her like fresh flesh and women were moving with heavy awkward make-up.Immediately she came to her consciousness, she asked them about her whereabouts and who brought her there. Women told Sunita, two elder brothers brought her there and they will come to pick her up in evening time. They further asked her to get fresh and look beautiful, as she has to start "Dhanda" soon. The word "Dhanda" in Nepali means cleaning, cooking and housekeeping activities and Sunita understood the same and replied, she doesn�t know those things, because her mother would do everything for her in home. But, the word Dhanda in red light area means to work as a sex-worker. Then, the brothel owner explained Sunita, she bought her in 40,000 Indian currency and she had to keep men sexually satisfied. Then only, Sunita realised she is in brothel and she couldn't see anything except darkness around her. Her heart almost stopped and started crying with request to release her. Sunita fought until one month there, rejecting to sleep with men and in return she would get a lot of mental and physical torture. She even thought to commit suicide, but she didn't get anything to hang her or any poisonous thing to have, neither had she found any hint to flee.
As brothel owner couldn't convince and couldn't make Sunita ready to work as a sex-worker till one month, she sold her for double the amount, Indian currency 80,000 in another brothel. There also, Sunita kept fighting and she would be tortured even with death threat. A Nepali man, who has been hired as a manager there, came with Nepali sword(Khukuri) and threatened her to cut and make her body into pieces. Eventually, she was losing her strength to fight as she had been prevented food as well and one day her brothel owner ordered five staff to rape her and she lost her fight, with no option left her to work as a forced sex-worker.
Sunita used to think her world has ended after she had been gang-raped and forced to work as a sex-worker. The men, who Sunita had to make happy were Indian army, police, businessmen and foreigners.
It was between 7a.m.-8a.m. morning, 5th of Feb 1996, brothel owner called Sunita with her newly given name, Usha and asked her to get ready to watch an Indian movie. At that time, Sunita was really surprised to see as she had never seen the lady speak in that soft tone and she followed the lady. When they just reached the gate of their building to watch cinema, Sunita realised she didn't feel comfortable with the salwar kameez she was wearing. Then, Sunita expressed her interest to change her dress, but the lady pulled Sunita's hand saying the dress is ok. Sunita refused to leave without changing her outfit. Then, she got permission and returned to her room to change the clothes. When Sunita opened the door after changing the dress, Mumbai police was in front of her and they took her away from that hell. She later found out that the Mumbai police had raided those red light area upon huge pressure from national and international level child right organizations to save minors under 18 years old from forced sex-slavery.
Almost 500 girls and women were saved from those hell-like life of brothel, out of them, there were almost 200 Nepali girls and women including Sunita. However, even their rescued life they couldn't breathe with peace of mind, as life in shelter home was as hard as in brothel, except they didn't have to sleep with men. Nearly, 100 girls and women were kept in one room without any bed and without any proper food. When they used to be in mensuration, they didn't have proper sanitization. After few times, the toughest part they had to go through was, when Nepali government denied to accept them in their own country due to fear of HIV/AID, showing the cause of citizenship problem. Thanks to those seven Nepali organizations, who forced the then Nepali government to bring those rescued ones home. It was only after seven months, nearly 128 Nepali girls and women were able to return successfully in Kathmandu, Nepal. And, out of those 128, 15 girls including Sunita Danuwar organized a group, called Shakti Samuha and eventually established it as a full-fledged NGO with their hard work, commitment, confident and transformation.
Sometimes, Sunita used to act as a broker and sometimes as a brothel owner and she used to write script herself for all her plays and that is how, she used to bring awareness in different vulnerable villages of Nepal, where there were high chances of girl and women trafficking. This was the time, when Sunita was leading Shakti Samuha as a president first time around 2000-2004.
Once Sunita and her friends established Shakti Samuha in 1996, the way Sunita started to transform as a survivor is outstanding. No words can explain properly her confident to expose herslef in street with performance to aware people about trafficking.
After she went through so much torture, rape and hell like experience in life, it wasn't easy at all to appear in street with that billion dollar smile in her face in the conservative society like Nepal. While asking, what the main theme of this act was, Sunita shared, the drama was about the scene of her initial conversation with her brothel owner and Sunita in Mumbai. Sunita was acting as a brothel owner and the girl on right hand side with red dress was acting as Sunita's role as a newly arrived victim pleading to release and to let her go home. Sunita speaks the same dialog to the girl, which she had heard from her brothel owner and the dialog was - Oh ladki, dhanda garnu parcha dhanda aba - (in Nepali) and in English - Oh girl, you have to start as a sex-worker life soon.
Sunita's role in Shakti Samuha is not confined in one role, it is multi dimensional. She is a counsellor for the rescued girls and women, she is a teacher to teach them and empower them. Sunita has key role in making policy of Shakti Samuha and planning strategy and now she is the chair person of organization serving as second time president and program director since 2011.She is also involved in policy making, strategy development and organising training programs.
When Sunita returned back home land in 1996 from Mumbai, she tried to track her parents. As she had lost communication in her unconscious state, she couldn't have any clue about their location. She wrote a mail to her uncle in Dailekh, but due to fear of disowning by her family and society, she couldn't go there, neither did she get any response of the mail. After seventeen years, she went back to Dailekh and met her relatives. She got clues about her sisters and brother. Sunita was shocked to know about her parents, as they had already passed away. Her mother passed away after four years of loss of Sunita and after eight years of her mother's death, her dad committed suicide by poisoning himself. Sunita had very hard time to hear about loss of both parents.