Former United States President Bill Clinton has invited Ruchira Gupta, an activist who has fought against sex trafficking for two decades, to join his CGI Lead Task Force -- a high level group within the Clinton Global Initiative.
Gupta is the founder president of Apne Aap Women Worldwide and winner of the 2009 Clinton Global Citizen Award for Leadership in Civil Society.
The CGI Lead's mission statement says that it is "to bring together a select group of accomplished young leaders to develop innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges."
In September, during the 2010 CGI annual meeting in New York, the New Delhi-based Gupta, who regularly travels to the US along with other CGI Lead members, announced a call to action where they would help thousands of displaced people in the Congo with education, economic empowerment and security.
President Clinton, in announcing the group's first commitment to action, said, that CGI Lead "hopes to change the global discussion on refugees and ultimately rethink the approach to the problem because it is designed to foster action-oriented global leadership."
The group, comprising 19 men and women, interacted with each other and met with President Clinton during a two-day retreat in Aspen, Colorado before the annual CGI meeting in New York to discuss the purpose and potential of CGI Lead. Gupta said, "President Clinton encouraged us to pass on the knowledge and the lessons acquired as members of the CGI to other leaders in our respective communities to amplify CGI Lead's collective impact and to foster a new culture of leadership in communities across the globe."
Gupta told rediff.com, "When I asked President Clinton why I had been chosen, he said because we were a group of people that placed importance on not just the what, but the how and did not accept failure."
"I was thrilled that he had picked me on the Gandhian quality of my work where the means are as important to me as the end and change begins from the most marginalised --in our case the prostituted girl," she said.
Apne Aap Worldwide is a grassroots organisation Gupta founded in 2002 that combats sex-trafficking of women and girls by building up their capacity through small 'self-help' social and economic cooperatives. Through these cooperatives, which now number several hundred, the organisation has provided access to education, income generation, training and legal protection to over 10,000 women and girls in India and Nepal.
The original 22 women, with whom Gupta founded Apne Aap, were first featured in then journalist Gupta's sex-trafficking documentary titled 'The Selling of Innocents,' which won an Emmy Award in 1997.
Gupta said, "Our Apne Aap model of self-help groups goes beyond the concept of savings and loans to social and emotional empowerment where the individual is empowered within and without."
She said that winning the Clinton Global Citizen Award last year had been a major boost "because it increased our visibility and helped us so much in our fund-raising, networking opportunities and the ability to engage with new audiences."
Gupta acknowledged that being a member of the CGI Lead team "is also significant because it has opened up even more opportunities and amplified the influence that a woman from the Global South can have internationally."
"Now with President Clinton's help, I hope to share this approach of community organising and women's self-empowerment with other marginalised communities in the world and we are going to start with the internally displaced people of Congo where more than 200,000 women and girls have been raped. And, it is estimated that in one of the areas where the fighting is the heaviest, 40 women and girls are raped every day," she said.
In September, at the CGI annual meeting, Gupta moderated a session to explore initiatives that are applying different approaches to the problem of trafficking, including monitoring corporate supply chains, rehabilitating victims through training and income generation, and preventing trafficking through education and micro-land grants.
Some of the other members of the CGI Lead team include Ishmael Beah, author of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Solider, Jennifer Buffett, president and co-chair of NOVo Foundation, Lauren Bush, co-founder of FEED projects, Jeff Gordon, four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, Chad Hurley, co-founder and CEO of YouTube, Wes Moore, vice president of CitiGroup, Pamela Omidya, co-founder of eBay, and Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women.