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December of 2013 brings the Lead Now team to India to raise money for Apne Aap, a grassroots Indian organization that helps marginalized women and girls work collectively to lift themselves out of the sex industry as well as to advocate for policy change to stem the demand for purchased sex.
Apne Aap translates to “self-help” in English.
Apne Aap works to empower girls and women to resist and end sex trafficking by organizing marginalized women and girls into small self-empowerment groups, where they work collectively to access their legal, social, economic, and political rights. Founded by twenty-two courageous women in prostitution who had a vision for a world where no woman could be bought or sold, Apne Aap Women Worldwide is determined to make that vision a reality.
Since their founding in 2002, Apne Aap has formed 150 self-empowerment groups in brothels, red light districts, slums, and villages. Through this work, they have created and proven a community-centered solution to end sex trafficking; Apne Aap has helped to transform the most marginalized girls and women into leaders who can change their own fate and that of their peers.
On the policy side, Apne Aap successfully lobbied for the United Nation’s anti-trafficking fund for survivors. Established in 2001, the fund disburses grants to organizations working at the forefront of providing services to trafficking victims. Representatives from Apne Aap have also made speeches to the South African and Icelandic parliament, urging them to change how their laws address the demand for trafficking. Today, both countries have changed their policies so that they punish buyers instead of trafficked women.
By 2016, Apne Aap plans to scale their model to link 500,000 women to a nation–wide support network and to empower 100,000 girls with the access to educational opportunities.