07/25/2013, 00.00
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Asia's 'Nobel' Prize goes to Shakti Samuha, which fights human trafficking

by Kalpit Parajuli
Created by former sex slaves, the Nepali group is one of five recipients of the Philippines' 'Ramon Magsaysay Award'. The 15 founding women today work to save other victims of prostitution. "I cannot express in words the extent of exploitation, abuse and torture trafficked girls face in the brothels of India, China and the Arab world," said one of them.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - Shakti Samuha, a group of former Nepali sex slaves that frees Asian women and girls from human trafficking in India and China, is among the five recipients of the 'Ramon Magsaysay Award' for 2013. Viewed as Asia's Nobel Prize, the award recognises people and organisations that have distinguished themselves for changing their societies for the better. The Filipino government, which established the award in 1958, made the announcement yesterday.

Created in 2000, Shakti Samuha is the first Nepali association founded and run by women victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking. For Chairimaya Tamang and Sunita Dunuwar, two of the 15 founders, the recognition is a source "of great joy and encouragement to go forward," but also a reminder of the days when they were forced into prostitution.

"We were so immersed in the darkness of that hell that it is always there deep inside us. And we feel deep in our hearts that countless Nepali girls and women are still trapped in that situation," Tamang told AsiaNews.

Tamang and Dunuwar, who is president of the association, were released in 1996 during a police raid in Indian brothels that rescued 500 women and girls, including 148 from Nepal.

From the day of the raid, it took the women six months to get home. Even then, they said, "the journey has not been easy. Government and society did not accept us. We encountered many difficulties even to register the organisation."

"I cannot express in words the extent of exploitation, abuse and torture trafficked girls face in the brothels of India, China and the Arab world. Now our focus is in India and China but we will soon expand our rescue work to Arab countries too", Tamang explained.

The other winners of the Nobel Prize of Asia are:

- Habiba Sarabi, 57, the first and only female governor in Afghanistan. The Ramon Magsaysay Foundation chose her for her commitment to education and the rights of women in Bamyan province, a very poor area that has often been the target of attacks and violent extremism.

- Lahpai Seng Raw, a 64-year-old Burmese widow, was chosen for her long commitment to the rehabilitation of communities affected by armed ethnic conflict in Myanmar. Since 1997, when the country was still under military dictatorship, she has initiated several aid and health projects, which have to date helped more than 600,000 Burmese.

- Ernesto Domingo, a 76-year-old physician of the University of the Philippines-Manila, has dedicated his career to improving access to health services for the poor, and for ground breaking and successful advocacy of neonatal hepatitis vaccination that has saved millions of lives in the Philippines,

- Indonesia's Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi, or Corruption Eradication Commission, won for its successful campaign to prosecute corrupt officials, recovering more than US$ 80 million in assets.

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