Mother At Heart
Mother At Heart
When Triveni Acharya had a chance encounter with a 14-year-old trafficking victim, little did she know her life would change forever. Today, her foundation has helped rescue and rehabilitate victims from villages in India and across borders. She shares her journey with Shraddha Kamdar
Shraddha Kamdar

“Mummy, mummy,” her girls came in, when she put me on hold during the interview. They had come to greet her, as they always did after school. She spoke to each one of them, fondly instructing them to eat the fruit from her bag. “I have never asked any of them to call me that, but they just do,” says Triveni Acharya, co-founder and president of Rescue Foundation, an NGO that works towards rescuing, rehabilitating, and repatriating victims of human trafficking. With a dedicated team of 100 fulltime staff, a network of more than 100 informers, and four shelter homes in Mumbai, Palghar, Pune, and Delhi, the foundation is providing vocational training, psychosocial counselling, access to medical facilities, including HIV treatment, post-trauma health care assistance, cross-border repatriation, and legal aid to prosecute the perpetrators. It has rescued over 5,000 girls, and rehabilitated and repatriated over 15,000.

Triveni, who co-founded the organisation with her late husband Balkrishna Acharya, was working as a crime journalist back in 1993, when she visited Mumbai’s red-light district, Kamathipura, to report a story. Upon seeing a young girl, about 13 or 14, she enquired about her mother, assuming she was the daughter of a sex worker. “When I realised that she is a worker herself, who was sold to the brothel, the first thought that crossed my mind was, ‘What if it was my daughter?’” she narrates. Owing to her profession, Triveni had witnessed and heard about various appalling cases, but their thought never lingered. “I had even witnessed the corpses of those burnt alive, but none of it affected me the way this particular incident did. I felt helpless about the situation,” she narrates.

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December 9, 2019