“One girl at a time leads to 20,000 women and girls, and all of a sudden it’s a movement.” This movement being spoken of – to end human trafficking around the world – began in India more than 25 years ago and arrived in Maine this week with the help of the Justice for Women Lecture Series and activist Ruchira Gupta.
A rapt audience of more than 150 staff and community members listened in as Gupta shared her inspiring life’s work at CIEE’s headquarters in Portland, Maine, on March 19 as part of the annual lecture series. Watch the lecture:
Gupta has dedicated her life to fighting to end human trafficking in all its forms by highlighting the link between trafficking and prostitution laws, and lobbying policymakers to shift blame from victims to perpetrators. From her early days as a journalist to the creation of the Emmy-award-winning documentary, “The Selling of Innocents,” she has embarked on a noble, and often dangerous, journey to give a voice to India’s women. In 2002, her dedication culminated in the founding of the grassroots organization Apne Aap Women Worldwide, which has helped nearly 15,000 women lift themselves out of the sex trade by providing a safe place to live and access to education.
“Education and collaboration – these are the cornerstones of the work Apne Aap Worldwide does,” said Gupta. “Girls who become educated are becoming models for their communities, where prostitution has been practiced for centuries. We’re changing the whole ecosystem. I can see it happening before my eyes.”
This celebration of the power of education continued as CIEE President and CEO James Pellow welcomed four Deering High School students who have been selected as CIEE Girl Rising scholars. Each of these young women – excellent students and models for their peers – will spend four weeks this summer developing leadership and intercultural skills as part of a CIEE High School Summer Abroad program. The CIEE Girl Rising scholarships celebrate CIEE’s three-year partnership with the global social movement, as well as the organization’s commitment to increasing access to international education opportunities for all students. Before concluding her talk, Gupta offered advice to these young women as they ready themselves for their journeys this summer, saying, “Learn, support, collaborate. And most important, listen.”
The Justice for Women Lecture Series
Founded in 2011 with the University of Maine School of Law, the Justice for Women Lecture Series is the vision of Maine native Catherine Lee, who’s nearly lifelong mission has been to create a world in which all women and girls are treated justly and with respect. Each year, the series brings a distinguished speaker to the Greater Portland area for a global conversation about justice with the goal to inspire people to transform the lives of women and girls around the world.
CIEE is honored to support the Justice for Women Lecture Series for a fourth year and to further access to educational experiences by investing in the communities in which we live and operate.