Anuradha Koirala left teaching 10 years ago to dedicate her life to stopping traffickers who smuggle women and children into the brothels of India, where they are often assaulted, raped and starved.
The 62 year old set up a safe house in Kathmandu and carried out a risky undercover raid in a Mumbai brothel in order to help more than 10,000 victims.
“I wish for a day when I don’t have to look after any more victims,” she told AFP. “I want the sex trafficking to end.”
Estimated 12,000 Nepali girls are trafficked every year and are often exploited because they are either unemployed or poverty-stricken, due to the 10-year insurgency that ruined the economy.
In an attempt to put an end to the misery, Mrs Koirala set up a charity in 1993 named Maiti Nepal, Nepali for “mother’s home.”
She put her life at risk in August 1999, when she travelled to Mumbai’s most dangerous streets, where underage Nepali girls are forced to sell their bodies to businessmen, locals and sex tourists.
In the red light district of Kamathipuri, she posed as a fan among the crowd surrounding late actor and lawmaker Sunil Dutt, who was known for his social work that involved visiting brothels and talking to prostitutes.
But she was soon discovered and the incident became violent.
“The rescue was quite bizarre. The majority of the brothel owners turned out to be Nepalese who had themselves once been victims,” said Koirala.
“It turned violent. The brothel owners and their aides started to hurl shoes and kitchenware at us. They even tried to hide the girls.
The culprits are often young to middle-aged men who trick poor, jobless girls into marrying them by promising them work in the cities.
The victims have their drinks spiked while being transported to Indian brothels.
But despite winning the CNN Hero award last year, Ms Kiorala says that the battle against sex slavery is even more important.
“Now, the girls are trafficked to the Middle East,” she told AFP. “And domestic trafficking has significantly increased. Young girls from rural areas are lured into Kathmandu’s thriving sex industry.”