In The Spotlight: Sudeshna Chowdhury, Brave Work Against Honour Related Violence, Sexual Violence And Gender Equality

Meet Sudeshna Chowdhury,

An extraordinary young brave woman from Sweden with Indian heritage that is devoting her life to advocate issues concerning sexual violence and gender inequality in Sweden and India.

Sudeshna has first time experience of living "in hell" under extreme abusive circumstances and has been a victim of Honor Related Violence including sexual assaults since as long as she can remember until she got out from her so called home at the age of 16. Up until then no one had taken her repeated cries for help seriously or removed her from the unbearable situation she was in.

Today Sudeshna does everything she can to make a difference in the world by raising awareness about this very important matter and work hands on to make a change, so that children in her situation doesn't have to go through what she had to go through.

She has taken her own experience and turned it remarkably well to something positive with her hard work and passion for change, even though it could be far from safe to do so.

This is not something that is going on in a remote country that we have never visited or heard of, this is going on now around us, even in "safe Sweden"

I have had the pleasure to meet and work with Sudeshna and are now including this interview as the third interview in my "In the Spotlight" series, that is focusing on people that are doing good in the World to inspire others to follow, I hope you enjoy the read.

What is your name, age, home country and occupation?

Sudeshna Chowdhury, 28, Sweden, I advocate for issues concerning sexual violence and gender inequality and I am working as a waitress to pay my bills.

What or who inspired you to start working against trafficking?

The fact that people still today claims that prostitution is a free choice, a matter of liberty, when the reality is that it's the very opportunity to any type of liberalism. Prostitution is the utter most oppression, a symptom of the society we live in. A society that teaches our children that it's legitimate to take advantage of some of societies most vulnerable. People that have suffered from severe violence and trauma that I have met. I strongly believe that we're harming both the human beings in prostitution, but also the human beings that were teaching that it's ok to harm others. Despite all the evil I've seen and myself experienced, I can finally say that I believe that there is good in human kind but because of lack of love and acknowledgement, people harm others. I believe it's my and every one else's duty to work for a change, for a brighter future for the coming generations.

What was the first project you got involved in and why?

I joined the international youth movement Freethem that works with changing attitudes and prevention regarding trafficking and pornography. Just a few months after I joined Freethem, I moved to India, and did some social work in Sonagachi. The support and the inspiration from my fellow Freethem co-workers was a contribution to take this brave and at that time scary decision. At that time I had a very well paid job, an apartment in a good neighborhood and life was from a western point of view doing great. But inside I was suffering and had this feeling of life can't consist of paying my bills, buying fancy clothes and attend fun social events. At the same time I've fought extremely hard to get where I finally where, and it was frightening to give up the things I've work so hard for. It's almost been three years and even though I've sometimes had nervous breakdowns and cried like a baby, because I haven't had a clue how I'm going to pay my bills, I've never ever regretted my decision. There is absolutely nothing I would have done differently.

How would you inspire others to get involved in a project?

Doing good for others have truly changed my life to the better. I'm not going to lie and say that it's always great. To be fair, at least half of the time it really sucks to bare the burden of the evil in the world, but whenever I get to talk about my work I feel a deep satisfaction. I don't feel bad or have any guilty conscience. For instance, now that Trump won the election, I was not totally devastated, because I know that I'm doing everything in my power to make the world a better place. But maybe the most important, when you see that your hard work results in positive life changes among others, for instance people getting out of drug abuse, there's nothing in the world that can buy you that feel of relief and tranquility.

What are you most proud of?

Despite the fact that I've been taught since I was born that I need the protection from men, I managed to survive in one of worlds most dangerous places as a woman. Whenever I've visited my relatives in India they've forced me (as a child) to dress in a certain way and never go out without a man, otherwise "bad things would happen". I proved everyone wrong by dressing the way exactly as I wanted to and went to red light districts without being accompanied by any man, but not a single sex buyer had the guts to dare to sexually assault me. I think I managed to prove to a whole lot of people that girls are strong and powerful, and the limitations people set up to "protect" us, is in fact oppression, a way to hinder our freedom.

How does it make you feel to do good for others?

Truly good! The more good I give out, the more good I get back. Which in the end makes me more happy and peaceful.

If there was one thing you could change to make the world a better place, what would that be?

Educate every child! Education is the key to tolerance, equality and positive growth.

If you could name one organisation that you have come across or worked with that you think does a phenomenal job, which organisation would that be?

The network of Freedom Business companies in Kolkata. It's private companies with the concept that they're hiring women from the sex trade in India. It's a creative way of doing good for society. If the company is growing, it means more women that can leave prostitution. The companies have a holistic perspective and offers counseling, childcare, loans without interest etc. to help the employees out of prostitution.

If you could name one person that you have come across or worked with that you think does a phenomenal job against trafficking or for human rights, which person would that be?

Her name is "Z" and she works as a social worker at one of the freedom business companies in India that I have worked for. She was herself a victim of trafficking at the age of 12. She was lured at refugee camp by a person she trusted so deeply that she called her a sister. Many years later she had the opportunity to join one of the freedom network companies as a social worker. She literally gives all her life for the women in the red light districts. She knows everyone's name, they're family situation, background etc. It takes years to build a relationship and get the trust from the girls, since they've been through severe sexual traumas, but she never gives up. She's always there and tells the girls that they're worthy and whenever they're ready, they're welcome to her.

What is the most unexpected thing that has happened during your charity work?

This might not be unexpected from a logical point of view, but from a human perspective it tears my heart. I became friends with a girl in Sonagachi, we were sort of the same age. I tried to encourage and support her to leave prostitution, her destructive relationship and drug abuse. She was going in the right direction; she actually ended the abusive relationship she was in at that time. One day she was suddenly gone and when I tried to find out what happened it was kind of the feeling "mind your own business". I still don't know what happened with her and I have a bad feeling that she's actually dead today.

Is there anything in particular that you want to share with us? A moment? A project? A person? A result? A change? A message? An article? A biography? A mantra? A quote?

The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do

How do you think you have made a difference with your work?

Working with raising awareness and social work is very hard to measure. But sometimes you actually see other people rephrase the conversations you actually had about a certain topic. Or when you bring up a topic which is seem to be controversial at first, but after sometime people talk about it as an issue, like it's self evident. I've seen that both regarding prostitution and the porn industry.

Ulrika Lorenz

'all photos used with permission'

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