Bill Brower is a Field Program Officer with GlobalGiving who is visiting our partners’ projects throughout South and Southeast Asia. On May 12-14 he visited sites in Dang and Bardia districts in western Nepal that are part of the Indentured Daughters Program of NYOF and its implementing partners (Help Society Nepal, SWAN and Friends of Needy Children). His “Postcard” from the visit:
Durgi and Kabita Chaudhry are living examples of the concept behind the Indentured Daughters Program at work. A few years ago, the sisters were rescued from a life of servitude and their family given two goats. That pair of goats quickly became seven goats. At the start of this school year, the family didn’t have enough to pay the school fees. (NYOF had been covering these fees, but this year the government is taking over the program, and budget delays caused a delay in disbursements.) So the family sold one of the goats to keep the girls in school. Success.
Realizing that just removing a girl from servitude doesn’t address the root cause of the problem, the Indentured Daughters Program of NYOF and its partners seeks to make the girls and, in some areas, their families more financially stable so that the pressure to resort to selling the girl for labor is reduced. They provide vocational training in sewing, making bamboo crafts and henna, running a restaurant, among others. They’ve also started co-ops run by and for kamalary (the local word for girls sold in to servitude) so that their families have a place to turn when expenses arise unexpectedly.
We stopped in many sewing shops, craft-making shops and a restaurant established by NYOF in conjunction with young women and run by these former kamalary. NYOF and partners often continue to support these businesses, for instance giving the seamstresses a contract to make the uniforms of other NYOF recipients, and a few voiced concerns about these guaranteed orders going away as NYOF hands over operations in the area to the government. If these businesses and their owners are to be truly independent and stable, they should be able to prosper without outside help.
The government is taking over the program, as it is doing with another NYOF program for rehabilitating malnourished children (see link below)--high official praise. I’ve written elsewhere that in the NGO world, imitation is the highest sign of a successful approach. As the delay in disbursing money for the program indicates, there will now be more bureaucracy to deal with but the government has far more and steadier resources with which to run and expand the program.
Which in speaking with the District Education Office in Bardia, it sounds like they are keener than I had expected to do. They talked about increasing the stipend the girls receive next year (perhaps doubling it). And they are interested in “flexible classes”, which would allow for older girls to catch up to their peers’ education level in special classes—sparing them the awkward situation of studying in a class of girls they stand literally head and shoulders above.
In Dang Province, where NYOF and its local partners have been working the longest, they claim the practice has been eliminated—evidenced by the fact that there are almost no girls younger than 14 in the local forum for former kamalary. In Bardia at least there has been a slight shift toward selling sons as the trade in girls is clamped down. NYOF has commissioned a report on this and while the number of indentured boys is far less than the number of girls who were until recently in servitude, it’s a problem that will hopefully soon also be eradicated.
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