Sunitha Krishnan

India

Dr. Sunitha Krishnan is the co-founder of Prajwala, or “Eternal Flame,” an organization based in Hyderabad, India, that combats commercial sexual exploitation by confronting traffickers, supporting survivors and developing innovative models of prevention to disrupt the cycle of exploitation across generations.

Before co-founding Prajwala, Sunitha engaged in extensive research about women and children in brothels and earned her master’s and doctorate in psychiatric social work.

Prajwala operates 18 schools for 6,000 children throughout the state of Andhra Pradesh. In close partnership with local law enforcement authorities, Prajwala has offered support for more than 4,636 survivors of commercial sexual exploitation — 2,000 of whom Sunitha liberated personally.

Sunitha has forged partnerships with numerous corporations — including Amul India, Taj Group Hotels, Yashoda Super Specialty Hospitals, HCL Technologies, TV 9 and Heritage Hospitals — to find jobs for rehabilitated women. She has also collaborated with UN agencies and NGOs to establish collective enterprises such as a printing press, a wood and steel furniture unit, and a screen-printing unit to economically empower hundreds of trafficking survivors.

In 2003, Sunitha spearheaded a statewide anti-trafficking campaign in collaboration with key public officials. Working closely with the government, Sunitha helped to shape Andra Pradesh’s anti-trafficking policy, a model in the country because it helps trafficking survivors access rehabilitation and restitution. In 2010, Andra Pradesh adopted a policy Sunitha drafted to ensure quality services for survivors by establishing minimum standards of care for shelters and service providers.

Sunitha has put the issue of commercial sexual exploitation before a wider audience. She has conceptualized, scripted and produced a number of documentary films on contentious issues such as youth and HIV/AIDS, Sheikh marriages and sex trafficking.

These efforts have galvanized India’s battle against sexual slavery by leveraging government, corporate and NGO efforts to achieve measurable results for survivors of commercial sexual exploitation.

In 2008, Sunitha was honored by CNN-IBN as a “Real Hero.” She has also received the Government of India Award, Stree Shakti Puraskar (Woman Power Award), and the Perdita Huston Human Rights Award.