Life started out hard for Rekha and her sister Shanti. Their father died soon after Shanti was born and their mother abandoned both girls shortly after that. Fortunately, their grandmother took them in and, despite her own scant means, enrolled them in the local government school. However, when Rekha reached grade six and Shanti grade four, the money ran out. It was at this point their lives diverged. Rekha started working as a farmhand and paid her own way through middle school. Shanti dropped out and an aunt took her to Kathmandu to work as a domestic servant, where she stayed for seven years. Rekha came to our attention when she entered eighth grade, which in Nepal has the highest incidence of dropout, and we invited her to join Stop Girl Trafficking.
“The support came as a huge relief – I was able to continue school despite my financial circumstances,” Rekha wrote me after we met during my recent visit to Makwanpur. “I attended school every morning and worked the day shift afterwards. And I still managed to come first in my class in grade eleven, and second in grade twelve!”
Meanwhile, Shanti returned to Makwanpur and worked as a cook. Two years later, at age fifteen, she got married. Married life is not what she expected it to be. Her husband’s family is very poor and at nineteen she already has two children. As Rekha told me, “she is not too happy.”
After graduation, Rekha enrolled herself in college and went through a training program to teach groups of girls about family planning and violence against women. She completed the program and a friend suggested she start volunteering for SGT in her spare time. Six months later, impressed with her work ethic and intelligence, we put her on staff. Rekha is now a college senior studying education and, along with two other staff members, she manages over 1,000 girls and young women from our field office in Makwanpur.
We are so proud to have Rekha on the SGT team!
Next month 10,500 girls will have a very happy start to the new school year because of you and Stop Girl Trafficking.
Education offers more than just learning: it gives young girls a chance to break free from a life marred by abuse and exploitation – married off too young, sent away to “work” or simply sold – and a path to a brighter future.
Early in the year, our local partners go out into the villages to work with teachers, local community leaders and alumnae to find the girls who are most at risk of being trafficked. These girls come from low caste communities that have been suppressed for centuries, from homes where a daughter is considered less valuable than livestock, or from families who are so desperately poor that they’ll sell or send away a daughter – with the hope her new “family” will be kind.
The causes and processes of human trafficking are complex, but our solution is straightforward and effective. Put girls in school and talk to them, their families and communities about the risks they face. Then tutor and mentor them through graduation and beyond.
On behalf of all the girls hopefully waiting for the start of a new school year, and a new life, thank you.
Sunita is 12 years old, in grade 7. Her mother died when she was six and her father is alcoholic and not entirely stable. He ekes out a tiny living making sickles for 100 rupees or sharpening them for 10. Sunita takes care of him. They have no land, and they have debt. She has two sisters, neither educated, both married off and far away.
She could easily have been a victim – shipped off to Mumbai or Dubai, a sex slave or a household slave, or both – her young life truncated, filled with abuse and despair. Instead, Sunita is one of 10,500 Nepali girls who, because of Stop Girl Trafficking, go to school.
Keeping at-risk girls from being trafficked by putting them in school is the foundation of Stop Girl Trafficking. The brilliance of our partner, Dr. Aruna Uprety, and her team is the care they take to find the girls most at risk and then weave a protective social web around them.
The whole community is involved from the beginning: teachers, school committees, local social welfare groups, and SGT alumnae help identify the girls most in danger and take part in counseling and discussions with the girls and their parents. With all these eyes on them, the girls are no longer invisible.
We make sure they stay in school through graduation – until they are truly safe. These girls have become leaders in their communities and, when they have daughters of their own, they will be educated and never be at risk.
Thank you so much for being part of this positive change.
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