On November 25, 2014, Dr. Sunitha Krishnan, alumna of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), was awarded the Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovation Award in Johannesburg, South Africa, for her extensive work in helping survivors of sex-trafficking re-integrate into society. Dr. Krishnan is the first Indian to receive this coveted distinction. The Nelson Mandela-Graça Machel Innovation Award is presented by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation to recognize and celebrate the achievements of civil activists across the world for their excellence, innovation, and risk-taking.
Photo Credit, U.S. Consulate General, Hyderabad
For nearly two decades, Dr. Krishnan has taken a bold stand in the fight against sex-trafficking. In 1997, Dr. Krishnan co-founded Prajwala, or “eternal flame,” an organization based in Hyderabad, India, that rescues women from sex-trafficking and educates their children to stop the life-cycle of forced prostitution. Prajwala has five main target areas—prevention, rescue, rehabilitation, reintegration and advocacy—with the goal of empowering survivors and breaking the cycle of sex-trafficking. To date, Prajwala has rescued more than 2,500 women from prostitution, 1,500 of whom Dr. Krishnan personally liberated.
For Dr. Krishnan, the experience of sexual-exploitation is a very personal one. A survivor of gang rape at the age of 15, Dr. Krishnan’s own experience served as the impetus for Prajwala’s founding. Since participating in the IVLP program on women and child trafficking in 1998, Dr. Krishnan has continued to advocate for change within society and amplify India’s experience in the global fight against sex-trafficking. By producing documentaries, sponsoring research, and promoting legislation, Dr. Krishnan has utilized publicity as a platform for awareness. In 2009, Dr. Krishnan gave a presentation at TEDIndia in Mysore, India on the fight against sex-trafficking. Her speech generated over 2.2 million views worldwide. As Dr. Krishnan continues to make headlines, it is clear that her passion and leadership will empower victims of sex-trafficking and inspire others to act as change-makers within their communities.
For more information: