Anuradha Koirala, one of the world’s most prominent anti-human trafficking activists and the 2010 CNN Hero of the Year, will be visiting Utah this spring as the keynote speaker for Southern Utah University’s conference on human trafficking.
Koirala is the founder of Maiti Nepal, an organization responsible for rescuing over 12,000 girls who have been trafficked as sex slaves in Nepal and India. Most days, her organization rescues between four to twenty girls. She has been recognized for her efforts by numerous organizations, and has received several prestigious awards, including the CNN Hero of the Year award in 2010.
Through Maiti Nepal, Koirala and her staff rescue and rehabilitate victims, provide them with a home (Maiti, roughly translated, means "Mother's Home"), administer medical and psychological care, and offer free legal counsel and defense. Many of the girls they rescue become socially stigmatized and aren’t able to return to their own villages after rehabilitation; for them, Maiti Nepal becomes a permanent home.
Koirala is making a special visit to Utah to speak at the human trafficking conference organized by SUU’s Global Engagement Center and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program. She will be involved in several conference events, including screenings of the documentary “The Day My God Died,” as well as participate in a question and answer interview, among other activities.
The conference, “Human Trafficking: People, Places, & Voices,” will be held April 12-13, on the SUU campus in Cedar City. All are invited to attend, although registration is mandatory. Earlybird registration rates will apply through March 15, though registration will remain open through April 12. Additional registration information is available online at suu.edu/academics/studyabroad/conference.
Koirala’s interest and involvement with the conference is due in part to her connection with one of SUU’s assistant professors of Sociology and key organizers of the recently implemented Women and Gender Studies program, Dr. Shobha Hamal Gurung. Gurung, a native of Nepal whose research and scholarship focus on different aspects of human trafficking, became involved with Maiti Nepal while completing her doctoral research in 1998. She has maintained her relationship with Koirala and the organization since.
Through the conference, SUU will bring awareness to the problem of human trafficking and facilitate discussion of the issue amongst a variety of experts, including academics, activists, journalists, and law enforcement officers from all over the world. The variety of presentations will give participants a broad and comprehensive awareness of the many aspects of human trafficking.
Human trafficking is considered one of the fastest growing criminal industries worldwide, and it is estimated that in the United States alone, hundreds of thousands of people are victims of trafficking every year. About 100,000 of those are children who are trafficked in the sex trade.
Even in Utah, the problem is prevalent. In 2009, the state organized the Utah Human Trafficking Task Force to try to combat the increasing numbers of victims being trafficked in and out of the state for sex or labor. The Salt Lake City police department alone receives on average one human trafficking case per week.
SUU’s Global Engagement Center hosts an annual conference focusing on a different international theme every year. This year, the Center is collaborating with the university’s new Women and Gender Studies program to organize the “Human Trafficking: People, Places, & Voices” conference.