Anuradha Koirala is CNN’s 2010 Hero of the Year

Anuradha Koirala, founder and Executive Director of Maiti Nepal, was named CNN’s 2010 Hero of the year during the annual “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” Thanksgiving night . Koirala, together with 9 other nominees, were each honored with a documentary tribute during the awarding.

Koirala’s group, the Maiti Nepal, is an organization that protect and prevent Nepali girls and women from crimes like trafficking, child prostitution and child labor, domestic violence, and various forms of exploitation and torture. To date, the group has rescued more than 12,000 women from sex slavery.

“Human trafficking is a crime, a heinous crime, a shame to humanity. I ask everyone to join me to create a society free of trafficking. We need to do this for all our daughters.” Koirala said in her introduction speech.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper made the announcement towards the end of the event, marking the highlight of the night. Ms. Koirala won title via public online poll that ran for eight weeks. She and her fellow “heroes” were chosen by a blue-ribbon panel from an initial pool of more than 10,000 nominees.

Veteran actress Demi Moore, along with husband Ashton Kutcher, proudly introduced Koirala during the event. Moore and Kutcher runs the DNA foundation, an organization that also aims to eliminate child sex slavery. Moore was very empathic during her introduction of Koirala saying:

“Every day this woman confronts the worst of what humanity has to offer. She says, ‘Stop. Stop selling our girls.’ By raiding brothels and patrolling the India-Nepal border, she saves girls from being sold into the sex trade, where they are being repeatedly raped for profit, tortured and enslaved. Since 1993, she has helped rescue more than 12,000 women and girls. Through her organization Maiti Nepal, she has provided more than a shelter for these girls and young women, she has created a home. It is a place for them to heal, go to school, learn a skill, and for some who are infected with HIV/AIDS, it is the place where they can spend their days surrounded by love.”

Koirala, a former English teacher, welcomed the award. She took home a total of  $125,000 prize money to fund her organization. Maiti Nepal, an agency that focuses on preventing human trafficking and sex slavery, started in a small house with Ms. Koirala’s own savings.

Koirala, whose work is considered dangerous, vows to continue to dedicate her life combating sexual slavery. “This is another responsibility to me to work with all your support. We have to end this heinous crime. Please join hands with me to end this crime. … Please try to respect the youth. They are the ones who are going to build the next generation. Thank you so much.” Koirala said in her Thank you speech.

“CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” Thanksgiving night featured performances from Grammy Award-winners Bon Jovi, John Legend and Sugarland. Celebrity presenters included Halle Berry, Demi Moore, Jessica Alba, Kid Rock, LL Cool J, Renee Zellweger, Gerard Butler, Kiefer Sutherland, Marisa Tomei, Aaron Eckhart and Holly Robinson Peete.

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