Rakshana is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization whose mission is the economic empowerment of sex trafficking survivors through STEM training and financial literacy education.
Rakshana means "protection." Rakshana aims to protect victims by giving them the means to control their own economic destinies.
Rakshana is unique in that it was founded to address the need for support for victims after they had been rescued. Sex trafficking survivors often voluntarily return to prostitution due to the belief that their only value is derived from their bodies.
Though there are many nonprofits that aim to rescue sex trafficking victims, few serve in a rehabilitative capacity.
Rakshana provides training to sex trafficking victims through paid professionals. This training facilitates their reintegration into the job market, simultaneously filling high-demand, high-paying jobs in male-dominated fields and extricating them from the vicious cycle that constrains them to the sex trade even after having been liberated. We work with victims who have been previously taught basic literacy skills by our partnering organizations.
Professionals work with the sex trafficking survivors to expand their knowledge in STEM fields such as Information Technology and help them gain access to entry-level jobs (i.e medical billing/coding) so they can expand their skill sets while gaining financial independence.
Through Rakshana's programs, sex trafficking victims are not only given the knowledge necessary to occupy high-demand, high-paying positions in the job market; they are given the financial tools and education necessary for sustainability.
All our efforts are grounded in the belief that economic empowerment is as much about identity as it is education. See Our Approach to find out more about our philosophy.
We are redefining the way nonprofits approach economic empowerment. Economic empowerment is not only about teaching technical skills. Instead, it is about changing how a sex trafficking victim sees him/herself.
Inspired by Anthony Robbins' research in self-improvement, we are applying self-help principles in approaching economic empowerment; we are implementing a program based on the idea that in order to make a permanent change, one has to change the way they identify themselves. For example, a person who identifies as a drug addict -despite sincere efforts to stop taking drugs- will eventually revert to their old habits. This is because a drug addict believes that by giving up drugs, they are trying to fight their true selves and therefore trying to erase a part of their own identity.
We teach sex trafficking survivors to see themselves as more than what was done to them. By teaching survivors not to let being a sex trafficking victim define them, we aim to instill the sense of worth that is often taken from victims of sex trafficking as a result of the dehumanizing treatment of traffickers.
Rakshana's goal is to show sex trafficking survivors through successful training and job placement that they are more than their body and that education is the key to unlocking all that they have to offer. For one of our talks about Rakshana's novel approach, click here.
Training survivors in STEM is only the first hurdle.
We are somehow indoctrinated with the belief that women are inherently worth less than men. It is not uncommon in India to hear loved ones claim that a boy may do as he pleases just by virtue of having won the "ovarian roulette." This bias translates to sex crime victims being seen as "impure" and at fault.
Eastern employers actively avoid hiring survivors to avoid condemning their businesses to the same stigma.
By equipping sex trafficking survivors with STEM skills, while educating employers, Rakshana not only bridges the STEM gender gap, it humanizes trafficking victims by demonstrating their promise.
Educating "Employers Workshop" attendees incrementally changes their attitudes, no longer subscribing to rape culture's staple: misplaced stigmatization.
Rakshana's partnering organizations span many sectors in order to work on everything from awareness campaigns to job placement for sex trafficking survivors.
We work with partners internationally, including the Oakland Raiders (National Football League, Jack Del Rio Foundation) and Airline Ambassadors International
Ethiopia is a source country for trafficking victims. In the U.S., sex trafficking centers around large sporting events, especially football games. India stigmatizes survivors.
Sex trafficking has different faces in different parts of the world and we want to treat it as such. Accordingly, we employ different strategies in different areas of the world.
Andinet Adinew Tesfaye
Malcolm Hollett Canada Division Head
A Question and Answer With the Founder
What has founding Rakshana taught you?
Being a part of a cause as large (and dangerous) as fighting sex trafficking means you have to be able to step back and see all the moving parts. In order to make anything happen in this field, you need to work with every personality type and be ready to improvise at a moment's notice.
Who and/or what inspires you?
Sandy Lerner is my inspiration. Co-founding Cisco Systems at a time when women were not accepted in the technology field, Lerner was the only woman in her company. Defying assumptions that she was less intelligent by virtue of being a woman, she made integral contributions to the development of routers, which facilitated today's increasing globalization.
Sandy Lerner trailblazed without regard to stereotypes. My dream is to do the same in my own field- to break the mold of soft-spoken, pre-med Indian girl and edge forward the boundaries of nonprofit innovation.
Outside of nonprofit work, what is your favorite thing to do?
I love being silly, especially with my family. They've seen me grow into who I am today. They taught me not to take myself too seriously. Weekend DIY (Do-It-Yourself) projects are fun too. Those fill up my house.
"There is magic even here, in gridlock, in late nights gone on too long, in boredom, the same magic that caused a woman to sit down at the front of a bus and refuse to move, that lead a man to think that maybe the world wasn't flat and the moon could be walked upon by human feet." - Iain Thomas
Swipe or drag through our slideshow to see pictures from some of our conferences.
Andinet Adinew and a fellow division member flying in from Ethiopia
Sanjana Akula delivering SAFE 2016 conference speech about using behavioral economics and self-help in the nonprofit sector: "Redefining Economic Empowerment and Why Youth Engagement is the Future of the Fight Against Trafficking"
Invited Youth Engagement Panelist
Opening speech at Marlboro's Town Council Meeting; Mayor Hornik and Town Council presenting Sanjana Akula with a certificate of recognition
Rakshana accepted to attend the United Nations Youth Assembly
Rakshana's successful Guinness World Record breaking event to raise awareness for sex trafficking
Fundraising at the Junior State of America
500+ survivors enrolled in the STEM program by the end of 2018
Begin paying STEM volunteer teachers stipends
Expansion into China, Venezuela, and Philippines- trafficking hubs
Expanding to 20 Division Heads (one per country)
Serving 50 sex trafficking shelters via STEM programs and job placement in the next 5 years
Address high unemployment rate of college graduates in densely-populated countries by hiring them to teach our STEM curriculum
We would love to hear from you. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org