For thousands of women who have been rescued from human trafficking in India by the organization Apne Aap, it’s not the piece of jewelry itself, but rather the future it can create.
Bangles, necklaces, earrings and even bags made by Apne Aap women from upcycled saris are being sold at American department stores and boutiques and on online as part of Rosena Sammi Jewelry’s “Who Sari Now?” Collection.
About 25% of the purchase price goes back to the women artisans, giving them a livable wage. The money also helps fund their children’s education. No small feat for women who may have been sold into prostitution at a very young age, abused for years and then discarded when they were no longer a profitable commodity.
Journalist turned activist
“Apne Aap” means “self-empowerment” in Hindi. For founder and former journalist Ruchira Gupta, helping women help themselves is what Apne Aap is all about.
About 20 years ago, Gupta was walking through the hills of Nepal when she heard a story of missing girls from the villages. When she followed the story, she uncovered a supply line of young girls taken from the villages of Nepal to the brothels of Bombay.
“What I saw in the brothel was 13-year-old girls being raped by 10 customers a night and a whole group of people living off that girl. I saw pimps who made money from her. I saw brothel managers, brothel owners, landlords. … She was basically kept in that bondage like a slave. Her body was just basically consumed, consumed, consumed for five years and when she was no longer commercially viable, she was just thrown out,” Gupta says.
She ended up making a documentary called “The Selling of Innocents,” which won an Emmy for outstanding investigative journalism in 1996. She says making that documentary changed her life.
“As a journalist, I covered war and famine and hunger and cost conflict and ethnic conflict but I’d never seen this kind of deliberate exploitation of human beings by other human beings.”
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