An Indian American teenager who is working to combat child marriage and human trafficking was named Oct. 10 as one of 10 young women to receive the 2018 National Gold Award from Girl Scouts of the USA.
Sakshi Satpathy, a senior at HenryM.GunnHigh School in Palo Alto, Calif., is the founder of Project GREET — Girl Rights: Engage, Empower, Train — and has designed, created, and distributed documentary films, a training curriculum, a website, and a YouTube playlist to engage and educate audiences on the tough issues of human trafficking and child marriage.
Satpathy’s films have been screened in 59 locations in 15 countries. Her training curriculum, “Guidelines to Rehabilitate Young Trafficked Girls,” is a tool for activist organizations to set up vocational training programs for girls who are at risk of being trafficked or were previously trafficked.
She has also presented Project GREET materials at the United Nations’ 62nd Commission on the Status of Women, where she discussed child marriage; trafficking-prevention laws; and cultural practices with ambassadors, activists, and survivors, according to her profile on the girlscouts.org Web site.
Satpathy learned about the issues through her work with Amnesty International; she serves as the founder and president of the Gunn Amnesty International Club at her school. “Through my work with Amnesty International, and through facts I have heard about forced child marriages and girls being trafficked, I understood deeply how the two vile practices directly violate girls’ rights,” said the young student in an interview posted to the Girl Scouts of the USA Web site.
“However, most individuals cannot relate to these issues. I strongly believe that almost every social injustice or global issue disproportionately hurts women and girls,” said Satpathy.
India has the highest number of child brides in the world. About 27 percent of girls in India are married before their 18th birthday, according to the organization Girls Not Brides. The rates of child marriage vary between states and are as high as 69 percent and 65 percent in Bihar and Rajasthan.
Though the rates of marriage under the age of 15 are falling, the rates of marriage between ages 15 and 18 are rapidly increasing, noted Girls Not Brides.
India is also viewed as a hub for human trafficking with an estimated three and a half million people forced into some form of involuntary servitude including forced child labor, illegal activities, child soldiers, and commercial sex. Children are disproportionately victims of human trafficking.
Satpathy said her experience in establishing Project GREET has taught her new technical skills like website building, movie making, and video editing, and improved research skills, as well as becoming an expert on trafficking, child marriage and gender inequity.
“As a future leader, I hope to become more compassionate and gain greater perspective from others to tackle pressing global issues such as climate change, lacking representation of women and minorities, war and poverty, unscrupulous business practices, and social evils beyond trafficking and child marriage,” said Satpathy.