Renu was a fifth grader in her local village school when her dad had a bad accident and could no longer support the family. Desperate, he "sold" Renu into a contract of indentured servitude and sent the 12-year old to work as a Kamlari — essentially, a household slave — for a family in a city far from her home.
While her "employer" promised to send Renu to school, he gave her so much work that she was unable to attend the local elementary school. Instead, she studied on her own late at night after a grueling day of sweeping, mopping and fetching fodder for the family’s animals.
“As a Kamlari, I was constantly working,” Renu said. “I started at 3 a.m. and often didn’t finish until midnight. It took everything to stay up to study.”
As part of its campaign to end the practice of Kamlari, Nepal Youth Foundation (NYF) rescued Renu in 2000 after five years as an indentured servant. She was 17 years old.
Smart and hardworking, Renu received a scholarship and finished her studies, passing the difficult School Leaving Certificate exam, a test required of all Nepalis to complete high school. She joined NYF’s Vocational Education and Counseling Center program (VECC) and completed the 18-month Auxiliary Nurse Midwife training program.
She now earns 15,000 rupees ($150) a month — good money in this impoverished country — delivering babies at a small clinic in Western Nepal.
Renu is also continuing her work towards a bachelor’s degree — again, working late into the night studying.
“This is different,” she said. “I don’t mind studying now. I am lucky to have this opportunity. “
Since 2000, NYF has rescued nearly 13,000 girls from the Kamlari system, and was instrumental in causing the government of Nepal in 2013 to officially ban Kamlari once and for all. Today, NYF focuses on providing former Kamlaris with the education, job skills, emotional counseling, and business opportunities they need to ensure a brighter future.
”I am happy that the next generation of girls will never have to go through what I have been through,” Renu said.
In a concerted push to rescue the last 376 girls still held as slaves in the homes of wealthy and powerful Nepali families, NYF this month launched an intensive effort to find and free them.
NYF rescued two girls in December– Jayarani and Jugri – who were working in the homes of wealthy businessmen in Kathmandu. Jayarani was seven when her parents sold her as a Kamlari. She remained for nine years. Despite promises made by her employers, she never went to school nor had they paid her family the meager amount of money they promised for her work. Jugri was forced to work as a Kamlari to reimburse a family for paying for a needed ear operation. She worked for a year to pay off her debt, and still worried that she still owed the family.
The girls are now safely sheltered and are receiving counseling before returning to their families. NYF will provide the girls with an education, skills training and counseling to help them transition to freedom. Despite the recent abolition of the Kamlari system, an estimated 376 girls are still enslaved according to a recent survey, and 89 of them are in Kathmandu. NYF has freed more than 12,000 girls since it began its movement in 1990.
As the freed Kamlaris finish school or vocational training, an increasing number of the girls are joining cooperatives to start their own businesses.
Last year, 65 members of different cooperatives obtained low-interest loans from a fund of $19,254 provided by Nepal Youth Foundation to start businesses in poultry, fishing, retail, carpentry, auto repair and vegetable farming.
We also registered 15 new cooperatives last year and now operate 32 different cooperative ventures.
Since 2000, we have freed more than 12,000 girls from indentured servitude, and we now must work to empower them through vocational training, leadership development and economic opportunities. The cooperatives are a good way to build community and provide the financial resources the girls need to become independent.
A former Kamlari, Bandhiya trained as a seamstress and borrowed money from a cooperative to start her own tailoring business. She has hired five girls and now runs a profitable business.
Thank you for your generosity. Your support has helped young women like Bandhiya make the transition from a household servant to a successful business owner. Namaste.
As NYF's Indentured Daughters Program matures, many of the young women rescued over the past two decades are now leaders of the Freed Kamlari Development Forum (FKDF). These women understand, as no one else can, the reasons for abolishing child slavery in Nepal.
Hundreds of these women took to the streets last March and demanded that the Nepal government abolish the practice of indentured servitude and investigate the suspicious disappearance of 40 Kamlari girls. The government listened, and in July, officials banned the practice. Government officials also promised to investigate the suspicious disappearance of Kamlari girls. FKDF members are monitoring the government’s actions to make certain they are keeping their promise.
Nevertheless, while it is illegal, the current reality is that destitute parents continue to sell their children into indentured servitude and about 500 Kamlari are still held captive by the most powerful people in the country – top police officers, government officials, the rich, politicians and those protected by politicians. NYF fears these powerful people will kill the girls or force them to commit suicide to keep their own abusive behavior from becoming public.
Your help as desperately needed now as ever before to keep innocent children safe from the dangers of being sold to foreign brokers who take the children far from their villages. Thank you again for your support of the Nepal Youth Foundation. Namaste!
The Nepal Youth Foundation has just earned its 7th consecutive 4-star rating, the highest possible, from Charity Navigator for our efficient use of your donations. Fewer than 2% of charities earn seven consecutive 4-star ratings.
NYF is also excited to announce our new website. Please take a look and let us know what you think: www.nepalyouthfoundation.org
Indentured Daughters Program Outcomes • May 2013
In rural Nepal, some families are so impoverished that they sell their young daughters to be virtual slaves. In Nepali, these girls are known as “Kamlari”. Despite the fact that the Kamlari system was outlawed in 2000, some girls, and recently boys, are sold under the cover of night. These girls are abused, almost none attend school, and some are forced into prostitution. After spending their childhoods as servants, the girls face soul-crushing challenges.
The Nepal Youth Foundation is eradicating this inhumane tradition. NYF’s Indentured Daughters Program rescues girls from virtual slavery, brings them home to be educated, and empowers them to be self-sufficient.
The pioneering Indentured Daughters Program uses a multifaceted approach to free girls who were sold into servitude. For only $100, the Nepal Youth Foundation liberates a bonded servant, brings her home, gives her family a piglet, goat, or sheep as compensation for her wages, and ensures she can go to school – often for the first time in her life. NYF is eliminating the practice of enslaving girls in Nepal through a two-pronged attack. First, girls that are currently bonded are set free. Second, public awareness campaigns educate communities and turn them against the practice, ensuring that the tradition is stamped out.
Since its inception in 2000, the program has freed 12,082 girls. It continues to support over 11,000 of them in diverse ways. 7,262 of the former servants are currently receiving scholarships.
Due to the success of the project, wealthy families began buying boys instead of girls. A recent survey estimated that 1,814 boys younger than 14 were indentured in Nepal. NYF began to address this in 2011–2012 by liberating 650 of them. 513 rescued boys are currently attending school under scholarships.
Sustainability of the Program
Now that NYF is close to eradicating the Tharu custom of selling their young daughters, we are shifting our focus from rescuing them to empowering them to be independent and successful. From January to March, 2013, 113 girls were enrolled in vocational training courses about topics such as dress making, poultry farming, computers, cooking, and obtaining a Certified Medical Assistant. These programs develop their confidence as well as their skills and enable them to start their own businesses. NYF arranged training in political activism and human rights for about 100 of the most dynamic girls who show the greatest potential to become leaders of the movement against bonding.
Under the auspices of NYF, many of the girls have been given incentives to form cooperatives that create financial opportunities for themselves and their families. NYF provides seed money for the girls to invest in the coops in order to get started. The Coop members collectively decide how to manage their business and how to use the money to generate income. They also borrow money from the cooperative profits to start individual business ventures. Due to the girls’ determination and newfound confidence, as well as the trainings provided, the coops have been extremely successful. During the reporting period, liberated girls established two new cooperatives. Currently, there are 26 cooperatives up and running.
Furthermore, former indentured servants have formed an NGO called the Freed Kamlari Development Forum (FKDF). NYF trains its members to carry out the awareness campaign against servitude which NYF started, and since June 2010, all of NYF’s work in the program area has been conducted through FKDF. FKDF is now organizing marches and public speeches, as well as mobilizing youth clubs, community leaders, and the media in the campaign to oppose bonded servitude. In collaboration with FKDF, NYF convinced the government of Nepal to fund the education and vocational training of all formerly bonded girls.
Because the Nepali government was not allocating the funds to the girls as agreed, the Nepal Youth Foundation arranged for the leaders of FKDF to meet repeatedly with Nepal’s President, Prime Minister, Education Minister, and other high-ranking government officials. The Prime Minister promised that the government funding for the liberated girls would get to where it was needed.
Through FKDF and the cooperatives, former indentured daughters have established an extensive network throughout Western Nepal that empowers them to fulfill their dreams.
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