Empowering the underserved—particularly women and children—through public health is Priya Mehra’s number-one mission. She has traveled from the halls of the U.S. Senate and the New York State Senate to drug-ridden slums in Pittsburgh and impoverished villages in India.
In India, Mehra witnessed firsthand the myriad of health problems experienced by survivors of human trafficking. She realized that the lack of respect for females, fundamental to domestic abuse, is the root of trafficking. “I was awakened to why I took this issue to heart,” she says. “I could see the face of a family member in the crowd of the assaulted.”
Even amidst the oppressed, she saw glimmers of hope. Young girls who contracted HIV while enslaved in sex trafficking inspired Mehra with their enduring radiant outlook. She was able to enroll into school one very determined 14-year-old who had survived trafficking and the exploitation of her rescuing organization. “Her beaming smile will always be with me,” Mehra says.
The harsh realities of India—and the public health challenges she’s encountered in her own country—have left Mehra hungry for change. She’s come to the Bloomberg School to learn how developing country governments and NGOs can collaborate to better implement public health policy and initiatives. She is more passionate than ever about helping survivors of trafficking and other oppressed populations obtain the quality physical and mental health they deserve. “Powerlessness is unconscionable,” she says. “No woman or child should ever have to experience it.”
Director of Sustainability, Victory Farms