Our History

Our History

‘’We began with a small group of seven women, but have now reached over 1.7 million women. We have been instrumental to bring a National Plan of Action against trafficking from the government and  create /revise government policies to support survivors of trafficking. In 1996, we along with 7 other national NGO’s working in the country, repatriated 126 Nepalese girls who were trafficked to Mumbai and placed them in shelters of these organizations. Girls who were with WOREC at WOREC’s shelter came together and created, the first survivor’s organization in the world , called Shakti Samuha. Similarly our  change maker approach enabled us to lay the foundation of 2nd self representative women’s  organization of women working in different restaurants, bars and dancing clubs in Kathmandu, called  Mahila ko Nimti Mahila Manch (Women for Women's Forum) which has evolved into an established organization working to protect rights  of women working in the entertainment sector as workers. Shakti samuha, 1st survivors organization of the world received the Magsaysay Award, which is considered the Nobel Peace Prize of Asia, and now has influenced all over the world thanks to numerous affiliations with international networks.’  

– Dr. Renu Adhikari Rajbhandari (Founding Chairperson, WOREC)

In 1991, WOREC was established by a group of women’s right activists to respond to the needs of a woman who had experienced extreme abuse and violence as a trafficked person. In the early 1990s, Dr Renu Rajbhandari, founding Chairperson of WOREC was working as a medical doctor with the Government of Nepal. In the course of her work, she met a girl in the Nuwakot police station, who was back from Mumbai after being trafficked there six years before. As a medical officer working with National AIDS and STD control program Dr Renu had to go to Nuwakot to take the blood sample of the girl to find out her HIV status. But interaction with the girl revealed the reality of her life; her heartbreaking story throwing a challenge to all institutions of society and state which are supposed to protect vulnerable persons like the girl.

According to the girl:

My mother was thrown out of the house because she was deaf, dumb and mentally challenged. She was forced to live on the street and as a result she was raped. When her pregnancy became visible and her health situation deteriorated, she was taken back to her family. She was blamed for sleeping with men and becoming pregnant and had to stay in a cowshed. Thus the pregnant lady had to stay in a cowshed, where eventually I was born and raised. As my mother was deaf, dumb and mentally challenged and I could not share my feelings with her. Other members of my family didn’t speak with me. I was stigmatized within my family and even within the whole community for being a child of an unknown father.

At age of 12 my maternal uncle proposed to take me to city where I could learn skills and earn for my mother and myself.  I was very happy and I travelled with my uncle to reach a big city where he introduced me with a lady as my aunt whom I had not seen before. After a couple of days I realized that he had sold me to a brothel. When I was sent to a client, I cried and refused to take the client. For doing so I was thrown from the four storey building in Mumbai. I got a severe head injury and was admitted to a local hospital. After the discharge I was taken back to the brothel.

In the brothel, as I was small, and could not bear as many clients as expected I had to face violence.  I was in different brothels of Mumbai for around six years. In this period I tried to run away but I ended up getting more abused. As the police was also in cahoots with the brothel owners, they used to catch me and take me back to the brothel. After such returns, the brothel owner used to beat me up and sell me to another brothel as punishment. After six years of such a life, I finally managed to run away again and luckily this time I met with a police officer who was helpful and not aligned with the brothel owner. This time I succeeded in coming back to my country with the help of the police. I am here in this police station for the last two days.

The girl further added, after taking the blood sample you will go away, but what of me? Tell me, what is my fault for being abused in such a way and being sold and forced to work in such a situation? Is this my fault that I was born from the womb of a Dalit, deaf and mentally challenged poor woman? Or was it my fault to listen to my maternal uncle who was the only person with whom I could speak?  Where should I go now? Who will support me? I don’t want to start prostitution as I do not like that work. I don’t want to go back to India in the same abusive situation, so please tell me: what should I do and where should I go?

Questions posed by the girl rendered Dr Renu speechless and ultimately became the inspiration to start WOREC. The girl’s body was full of blue marks, and her vagina was wounded as brothel owner used to hit her with a bunch of keys. Analysis of this case from a feminist perspective reveals the layers of marginalization of that girl of being poor, a Dalit, a child of a disabled woman from a village, and most importantly a child born outside the institution of marriage, as the root causes of trafficking. The absence of support mechanisms was making such young women even more vulnerable. The police was also stigmatizing her for being a returnee from Mumbai, with all the stigma attached to victims of trafficking. This holistic analysis was later reflected in WOREC’s program to support such women and advocate for rights of all women.