Akhi Begum is the founder and ex-president of the Nari Mukti Sangha, a sex worker's organization that combats discrimination, corruption and maltreatment. Akhi was sold into prostitution when she was 14, but she won her freedom after only 3 months. Her influence in the Tangail brothel community in Bangladesh is so powerful that even the police are afraid to cross her.

Photo: 2005 Phil Borges/CARE