Project India: Hands of Hope

Organization fights for every girl's rehabilitation

By Brooke Hines Chart Reporter

Dr. Sunitha Krishnan

Dr. Sunitha Krishnan sees progress but wants more.

“We can confidently say that out of every ten people, eight of them have been successfully rehabilitated. Because we are never happy with today’s operations, we are constantly experimenting,” Dr. Krishnan said with a smile.

Dr. Sunitha Krishnan founded Prajwala in 1998. Prajwala, based out of Hyderabad, India, is a non-profit organization that rescues girls from sex trafficking in the Andhra Pradesh region.

The success of this organization can partly be explained by the detailed structure of the organization. Prajwala has a very purposeful goal: to rescue victims of trafficking for the goal of sexual exploitation. Because she is determined to be boundary-less in the rescue of her girls and takes great risks to ensure their rescue, she must accept other boundaries. For example, if she is radical about rescuing girls from desperate situations, she must also be radical about protecting them. This organization is under constant attacks by entities that are losing money because of Prajwala’s rescue of children that would otherwise be commodities. Because of this, the locations of the project homes are strictly confidential.

Prajwala focuses on four aspects of combating the effects of trafficking on victims and communities.


The main weapon used to prevent trafficking is education. Advocates at universities and communities host many programs a month drawing awareness to the issue.

“Similarly to at-risk areas in America, certain caste and ethnic groups are more vulnerable in our communities. These may be poor, a particular caste — Muslim, Hindu, Dalit — We identify these groups. We are seeing boundaries being broken. The risk is no longer only pertains to economic level.”

The education programs now target men as well, who Sunitha has found to be an important role in slowing the prevalence of this crime. Men, who are predominantly the demand for this kind of slavery, need to be involved in the process and sensitized to the human depravity of the act.


The rescue process is crucial in the rehabilitation of these girls. In the rescue process, there is always a female staff member involved and the children’s belongings are rescued as well. Law enforcement is involved and the traffickers are questioned.

These raids usually take place a few times a week. The girls are taken to a safe haven where they can begin rehabilitation and be safe from retaliation from their recent captors.

An important step in the rehabilitation for
young trafficked girls is education.


The rehabilitation process is separated into 3 sections: psychological, economic, and civic.

In the psychological rehabilitation process, the focus is healing the mind and soul of the victim. Many aspects of the victims psyche need to be addressed, even body language that she has learned that may draw unwanted attention. This is a cultural aspect that may be different in other areas: in India, certain gestures and body posture can signify an affiliation to the sex industry. To learn proper body language can bring a new sense of self-respect for a victim who can now be free from unwanted attention.

Economic rehabilitation is addressed to restore livelihood and incomes.

“We look at her strengths and her adversities — which can also be strengths — and see options,” Krishnan said. “Some of the girls feel that they have nothing left to lose, after selling their shame for so long, so we take unconventional approaches in regards to economic rehabilitation.”

They have experimented with training the girls in welding, carpentry, masonry, printing, binding, and even as cab drivers. “When the girls see that they are not only more successful at their trade than women, but also better than men, sometimes it is more powerful than psychotherapy.”


Reintegration is the last step in rehabilitation. This civic portion of the process is difficult because of the danger that sometimes lies in the homes. Some of the victims were trafficked by their own family members; therefore reintegration back into their homes would be dangerous.

The Prajwala team searches for safe places for the girls to go and keeps track of their progress. Stigma is a challenge to the girls and women as they reenter society.

“We try to tell them that it’s not what the world thinks of you — it’s what you think of yourself. I cannot change the world for you, but I will change the world within you.”

These are the words that empower young girls to redefine the rest of their lives. Lives that Prajwala hopes that the girls will be in control of.

“It’s about justice,” Krishnan said. “I personally believe that you cannot reach world peace without fighting for justice. If you want peace, fight for justice. Trafficking is the pinnacle of injustice, but in war, fighting, at the end of the day it’s about justice.”