The goal of this project is to rescue from bonded servitude young girls in Nepal who are more or less “sold” by their parents to work as servants in the homes of strangers far away from their villages.
Our “modus operandi” was to avoid giving money to the parents because alcoholism is rife in the area. Instead, if the father would agree to leave his daughter at home or to recall her from her labors, we provided the family with a piglet or a goat, which they could raise on kitchen scraps and sell at the end of the year for about the same sum as it received for the child’s labor. Or more, if the animal was bred. Simultaneously, we placed the girl in school at our own expense and enrolled her mother in an income generation program. By this means, we hope that within three or four years the mother can earn enough to pay her daughter’s own school expenses.
The program has been phenomenally successful. From its inception in January 2000, when 32 girls were rescued, NYOF has now returned more than 1300 girls home to live with their families and attend school in our target area. Indeed, we are responsible for the rescue of 2500 young girls – last year, an INGO with much larger resources offered to help us, and after we trained them in our methods, they rescued 1200 girls in a single year.
We have now more or less defeated the practice in the area where we have been working for the last six years and have moved on to an adjoining locality where the practice is common. In January 2006, we enrolled 500 new girls in the program in this new location.
Simultaneously, we began our energetic awareness program to turn the community against the practice. Our success is due substantially to these efforts. We initiated many methods to inform the community about the inhumaneness and illegality of what was a commonly accepted practice. The girls returned home by NYOF wrote street plays, which they acted out in the villages, describing their suffering while they were indentured. We bought time weekly on a local radio station for a program in which the returned girls talked about their experiences as bonded laborers, initiated a broad poster and leaflet campaign, formed the girls and the adults in the community into clubs to oppose the practice, and filed lawsuits against those who employed bonded girls. By this means, the villagers in our target area were turned against the bonding custom. Whereas in prior years, hundreds of girls were sent off every year, to our knowledge, not a single girl in our target area went off to work last year.
We have initiated our awareness campaign in the adjoining locality. Our aim is to bring a few hundred girls home from their labors, start our effective awareness campaign, and then to invite an INGO with larger resources to finish the job. It is estimated that 20,000 to 25,000 young girls of the Tharu ethnic group are subject to this practice in five western districts of Nepal. We have an ambitious goal – to eliminate the practice by 2010, with the help of other INGOs.
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