Rakhi Gope Adjudged Most Promising Individual For 2017
“This is the first time that I have received a national level award. It is not just encouraging, but also reinforces within me that what I am doing is right, and that I need to continue with determination,” says Rakhi Gope, winner of the second Martha Farrel Awards for Excellence in Women’s Empowerment. She shares the honour with Majlis Legal Centre.
Rakhi, resident of a tea estate in Falakata in Alipurduar district of West Bengal, is a community-based social activist and student of social work, who has been at the forefront of the fight against child marriage and human trafficking within her community for the last 11 years.
Belonging to a socially backward family, Rakhi was inspired during a workshop conducted by Child in Need Institute (CINI) in Falakata, and decided to work for her community, which is characterized by patriarchal socio-cultural practices, unsafe migration and human trafficking. She became a volunteer with the North Bengal Field Unit of CINI in 2006. Currently, she works as a District Resource Person with CINI, is pursuing her Master’s in Social Work from Rabindra Bharti University, Kolkata and serves as a member of the Local Committee (LC) for the prevention of sexual harassment of women at the workplace.
Over a decade, Rakhi has developed both curative and preventive measures at the community level to tackle child marriage and human trafficking. She has established safety nets in her community, receiving information about any instance of child marriage or human trafficking, which she subsequently takes up with the relevant state authority. Rakhi sensitizes her community, especially women, adolescent boys and girls, towards the issues of child marriage, human trafficking, HIV/AIDS and other STIs. She works closely with 22 gram panchayats in the district, the Block Development Officer, Superintendent of Police, Child Welfare Committee and the Border Security Force (BSF) to track and prevent human trafficking.
Rakhi has received numerous threats to her life in her fight to eliminate human trafficking in her community. But she remains courageous and resolute.
Established in 1991, in Mumbai, Majlis Legal Centre started in response to a growing need for lawyers with a gender perspective, dedicated to evolving innovative legal practices to defend women’s rights. Headed by Flavia Agnes, Majlis is an all-women team, comprising lawyers and social activists. Their agenda for social change is to ensure quality legal representation of individual women in court, changing mindsets through advocacy and training, and evolving gender-just ideology through campaigns and interventions.
Till date, Majlis has defended over 50,000 women litigants all over Maharashtra in their struggle against domestic violence and sexual violence. Majlis Legal Centre exercises “positive discrimination” and has employed only women since its inception.