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Ruchira Gupta grew up on her father’s bedtime stories, sparking a desire to become a storyteller like him. Inspired by a childhood article titled The Autobiography of a Pencil, published at the age of ten, Ruchira resolved to become a journalist. Despite initial disinterest in college, she pursued it to secure a job at a Kolkata newspaper.
A turning point occurred during a work assignment in Nepal, where she discovered the harrowing reality of girls being trafficked into Indian brothels. Her documentary, The Selling of Innocents, earned her an Emmy. Unfulfilled, Ruchira left journalism, founded the NGO Apne Aap, and collaborated with the United Nations to combat sex trafficking globally. Despite accolades and a book, I Kick and I Fly, she remains dedicated to eradicating human trafficking and envisions a world free from the buying and selling of human beings.
She shares her story on art and activism and discusses with Manira Alva, her book, her work and the work that is yet to be done.
Ruchira Gupta is an Emmy winning journalist and founder of the anti sex trafficking NGO Apne Aap, that empowers women and girls to exit systems of prostitution. I Kick and I Fly is her debut fiction novel.
She has been awarded the French Ordre National du Mérite, the Clinton Global Citizen Award, and the UN NGO CSW Woman of Distinction, among other honors, for her contribution to the establishment of the UN Trafficking Fund for Survivors, the passage of the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act and her grassroots activism with Apne Aap. She also holds a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Smith College. She has co-written a book with Gloria Steinem, “As if Women Matter” and edited two anthologies, “River of Flesh” and “Renu’s letters to Birju Babu”.
Ruchira has worked for the United Nations in Nepal, Thailand, Kosovo, Iran, and the USA. She occasionally teaches at the New York University’s Center for Global Affairs as a visiting faculty.
Ruchira divides her time between New York and Forbesganj, her childhood home in the foothills of the Himalayas, where she furthers the work of Apne Aap and paints her mother’s garden.
Manira Alva brings over three decades of multi-genre media experience, gendered-policy / programmatic design and political movement building to the Vital Voices Senior Leadership Team. Vital Voices is committed to working with girls and women leaders taking on the world’s greatest challenges.
Leading Issue Advocacy, she stewards the relationship with the UN and other multi-laterals, oversees signature fellowships in collaboration with the Council of World Women Leaders and the Kennedy School and works to scale the solutions of girls and women leaders. She was previously appointed to India’s High-Level Committee on the Status of Women by Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh. At the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, she co-designed the re-launch of the 16 Days of Activism global campaign.
She is committed to changing the narrative and culture regarding women and public leadership. As an activist, administrator and educator, she brings an intersectional understanding of global issues, is sensitive to varying cultural contexts and geo-political alignments and remains passionate about SDG 5.5- increasing women’s leadership across all verticals.