Oct 9, 2017

Asmita's Uphill Battle

Asmita is fourteen years old and a student in STOP Girl Trafficking (SGT). We met with her and her parents at their home, little more than a hut, to talk about how things were going. When asked if she likes school, Asmita quickly agreed, adding that she is the top student in her class. Her huge smile made the claim believable.

Without the support of SGT, there would be no top-of-class, or any class at all. Asmita’s parents are day laborers and couldn’t afford to send her to school—her younger brothers got priority.

A few of the other girls we met in Asmita’s village of Chainpur also greeted us with easy smiles. But most exuded vulnerability: shy, serious and uncertain. A familiar condition of childhood, but it was more than that. There was a weight the girls carried that was almost palpable, the responsibility for cooking, cleaning, and caring for siblings, all on top of school and homework. Chores that freed up time for their brothers to play or sleep in. Staying in school, if they are even allowed to go, is simply harder for girls in Nepal.

Sometimes those hurdles extend beyond the home. Asked what her least favorite thing about school was, Asmita thought for a moment and said, “When the teacher doesn’t come and there is no school.”

The gaps in Nepal’s educational system, and in how girls and boys are treated, can feel like a chasm at times. But SGT is helping to fill those cracks, not only by paying for girls’ school fees and materials, but by putting extra teachers into classrooms. Many of these young women are STOP Girl Trafficking alums who can cover when the government teacher is out and, most importantly, keep an eye out for girls who are at risk of being trafficked. Chainpur has no support teachers yet, but someday an SGT alum, perhaps Asmita, may decide to pay it forward and become a teacher or afterschool tutor.

It was clear that girls here, as in so many communities across Nepal, have an uphill battle to equity. And it wasn’t hard to imagine how the promise of a stranger might convince them to leave and seek a better life—with tragic consequences. But they also have a safety net: mentors, a network of other girls in SGT, and the courage that comes from having someone in their corner all the way through graduation.

By then, the difference from their younger selves is striking. They are spirited, hopeful, and filled with ideas and gratitude for a future that is their own.

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Aug 1, 2017

From heartbreak to healing

Find out how Shanti took her first steps
Find out how Shanti took her first steps

Shanti was born into suffering. Her legs were bent painfully backwards and, as she grew, she couldn't walk upright. With great determination, she crawled to school every day. No one in her village in rural Nepal thought there was any help for Shanti—until our partners at the Hospital and Rehabilitation Center for Disabled Children found her.

Watch the video of Shanti's incredible transformation

Shanti's surgery literally transformed her life. And hers is just one of the 1,800 operations done each year by the hospital's dedicated team. Altogether, 75,000 children in dire need have been healed by their expert care.

Just $150 provides surgery for a disabled child that changes their life. That’s a single doctor visit here, but to a struggling family in Nepal, it’s a fortune that is completely beyond their means.

Today, Shanti walks to school and can kick a soccer ball. She can look friends in the eye and she smiles, a lot. For her, and for all the children who have a different, better future because of you and your kindness, we cannot thank you enough. 

Before and after - now Shanti even plays soccer!
Before and after - now Shanti even plays soccer!

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Jul 10, 2017

Dividing lines: A girl's life in rural Nepal

On day four of our field trip to Nepal last May, we piled into a jeep and bumped our way to the village of Sankhu, an hour out of Kathmandu and a world away, to see two Friday classes. These are extra classes taught by STOP Girl Trafficking alums to give students in the program a chance to ask questions about their schoolwork. They do that, but they have evolved another essential function: giving the girls role models and a sympathetic ear.

The first class we walked into was filled with teenage girls in uniforms and neat braids. They were all heads down, writing a short essay in answer to the question their teacher had written on the board: what are the dangers to a girl who doesn't get educated? The SGT coordinator with us asked if I wanted to interact with the girls. Well, yes! I was introduced and invited to the front of the class, and spent the hour asking girls to read out their essays and then asking other girls if they agreed and why, going round the room and catching some very thoughtful comments. It’s not the Nepali way of learning, but they dived into the discussion. It was not a theoretical question for them—these girls knew well the dangers.

The next class was full of younger girls, grades 6 and 7, doing a drawing assignment to show the difference in boys’ and girls’ lives. One girl drew a mother figure in the corner of the paper, holding out a plate with eggs, a prized food in rural Nepal, for her sons on their way to the school house. In the other corner a girl was crouched, cutting grass for the animals. Variations on that dark contrast repeated in many of the drawings. Again, not theoretical. That was their experience.

Then the two classes performed a short play telling the story of a young girl—with a sick father and a mother anxious to marry her off—who was sent away, over her protests, with a man they barely knew. He sold her into a brothel, and the brothel owner then sent him back to the family with a pretext to get her younger sister as well. But the young sister's friends, who were in SGT, alerted the police who chased him down and rescued both girls.

They had fun acting it out (Bollywood is very much alive in rural Nepal), but it was chilling to think that this is also a fact of their young lives. And yet, there they were, bright-eyed and curious, and happy to see us. They feel protected and cared for by us and Aruna’s team. And grateful. Amazingly so. But still girls.

When I asked if they liked their teacher, they said, resoundingly, “Yes!” And why? “Because she’s beautiful! …and nice to us.”

Girls tend the fields while boys go to school
Girls tend the fields while boys go to school

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