The Kant Brothers
Voices of Solidarity, 2013
Shakti Vahini is an NGO that works for the rights of women and children in India, and is especially known for its work against human trafficking and sexual violence. For more than a decade the organization has been a leading voice in the debate about violence against women in India, a debate that exploded into protests in December 2012 after the brutal gang rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi.
The movement is run by three brothers: Ravi Kant, president, Nishi Kant, executive director, and Rishi Kant, social activist and media co-ordinator. Ravi has a legal background, and is an advocate at the Supreme Court of India. Nishi is a licensed social worker. Rishi leads the group’ s media outreach.
Together, and with the support of a 45 person strong professional team and hundreds of volunteers, they are Shakti Vahini. “Shakti is the mother goddess, the goddess who fought injustice,” says Ravi. “Vahini is a brigade. There are many of us, and we’re fighting together.”
The organization is best known for its work with victims of commercial sexual exploitation along G.B. Road, the center of the brothel district in New Delhi, where it has carried out a series of rescues. “Every girl you rescue has a different problem, how they were exploited – personally, sexually, physically, mentally, exploited,” says Rishi. “A trafficked victim has no ability to express her emotions. You have to stand with her and be with her till the end. Our responsibility is to empower them and give the voiceless a voice.”
Nishi had been working on HIV/AIDS, in the 1990s. As he met the women and girls on G.B. Road, their experiences persuaded him to broaden his efforts. “We heard of their pain and their anxiety, such heart-breaking stories, that it compelled us to work on these issues,” he says.
Shakti Vahini uses strategies that draw on the different skills of the brothers: media outreach; interventions, including rescues; training for police and public officials; impact litigation; and, legislative advocacy. The organization works on a broad spectrum of issues: violence against women and children, human trafficking, child labor, debt bondage, forced marriages, honor killings, and HIV/AIDS.
The Kant brothers have been engaged with Vital Voices since 2005, and in 2010, they joined the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Women, an innovative program formed by the Avon Foundation for Women, the U.S. State Department, and Vital Voices.
Shakti Vahini is successful because of its ability to work with everyone – victims, doctors, journalists, police, judiciary and politicians – and because it works on a range of issues, finding linkages and identifying solutions. By transcending boundaries and seeking holistic solutions, the Kant brothers have elevated the struggle for the rights of survivors of exploitation and violence in India, and globally.