A woman from the untouchable caste, Sampat Pal Devi has broken convention and challenged the patriarchal values that are strongly upheld in rural India. From an early age, Devi was painfully aware of the limitations placed upon her by society. At the tender age 12, she was a child bride in an arranged marriage, at 15 she was pregnant with her first child and by 20, she was mother to five children.

In what would be a defining moment, Devi witnessed a man in her own village mercilessly beating his wife. The next day, she took matters into her own hands. With a small group of women wielding lathis (“sticks”), she confronted the offender and the Gulabi ("pink") Gang was formed. 

Draped in pink saris, the sisterhood unapologetically fights to empower women by intervening in cases of domestic abuse, rape, and abandonment, interrupting child marriages, and storming police stations when the law enforcement turns a blind eye to these injustices. The color of femininity is now the color of resistance.

“The sisterhood unapologetically fights to empower women by intervening in cases of domestic abuse, rape, and abandonment and interrupting child marriages.”

Stopping sex-trafficking

Somaly Mam’s story is one of remarkable resilience. An estimated two million women and children are sold into sexual slavery each year. In the 1980s, Mam was one of them. Orphaned during the Khmer Rouge, she was forced into prostitution as a child, enduring torture and abuse before finally escaping to France with the help of an aid worker.

Moving forward

She returned to Cambodia in 1996 to found AFESIP, a network of shelters for victims of sex-trafficking. Her shelters have rehabilitated thousands of women and girls, while working with police to help others escape the brothels. In 2007, she created the Somaly Mam Foundation to support anti-trafficking efforts worldwide.