Our colleague VJ Nagender Rao, Sales Executive on Hotel Saudi, who never scaled a tall mountain is training to climb Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, to raise $10,000 for the rescue of human trafficking victims in India.
VJ, 31, said he was driven to do something to help after hearing a TED talk by world renowned Indian social activist Dr Sunitha Krishan, three years ago.
“We all know that prostitution and human trafficking exists,” he said. “But after this talk I realised that back home, in India, girls as young as three or four were being raped and forced into human trafficking.”
“The thing that disturbed me a lot was to hear that the intestines of two or three of these girls that were rescued were literally hanging outside,” he added. “I just could not believe that there are still people who can do that to such young girls. So I decided I had to do something for these girls or help in some way.”
In India alone, an estimated 200,000 women and young girls — often from the poorest segments of society — are forced into prostitution every year, often lured into the trade by the false promises of a pimp and held against their will.
Rao said that the money raised through the climb will go to the Rescue Foundation, a Mumbai-based NGO that seeks to rescue and rehabilitate human trafficking victims in India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
“What they do is go and rescue girls, and bring them to rehab centres close to where they are, for counselling, ” he said. “Even after being rescued, the girls are pretty traumatised by their past experience, and many of them even feel like committing suicide.” Additionally, Rescue Foundation provides legal aid, healthcare, shelter and vocational training to the rescued victims.
“Most of the time the families aren’t willing to accept them back,” he said. “So what they do is teach them something, a means with which they can live a life after leaving the rehab centre, rather than going back to prostitution.
“They’ve been pretty instrumental in saving thousands of girls so far,” he said. “Last week only, they rescued eight minors in the north of India.”
According to Rescue Foundation statistics, the organisation rescues about 300 girls a year and repatriates 700. The organisation — since its inception in 2000 and up till 2014 — has rescued approximately 5,000 women and young girls.
The eight-day climb
Rao, who will undertake the eight-day climb to the top of the 5,895-metre Kilimanjaro in early August, told Khaleej Times that he has no practical climbing experience.
“I don’t have any climbing background. It’s actually the first climb for me to such a height...I have climbed a small mountain in Scotland that you could go up and come back down in four hours,” he said.
“It’s a difficult climb where people have also died,” he went on. “But I thought I should push myself to raise awareness for the girls. But it’s will power. It’s how much and how badly you want it.”
Rao added that he hoped that in the future, people will come together to end the scourge of human trafficking in Asia.
“We all talk about it when something bad happens. We feel bad for the girl. But we don’t end up doing anything,” he said. “It’s a very sensitive topic. We feel sad but we tend to not do anything.”
“I feel like we all can make a difference, if everybody does feel that they do have to give back to society. Just by contributing $10 you can make a big difference in these girl’s lives.”