Rescuing Young Girls From Bonded Labor in Nepal

by Nepal Youth Foundation (NYF)

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.

You can also click below to read the NYOF Spring Newsletter!


Dear Friends:

Hello from a chilly but upbeat Kathmandu. There is a new energy and optimism in the air, as the decade-long civil war has come to an end. The Maoist insurgents have come in from the cold, joining the new government, and have agreed to participate in elections.

Nevertheless, our scheduled trip to the Dang area to rescue bonded children during the Maghe festival had to be aborted because another group of radicals blocked the roads to the area. This did not stop our local staff from rescuing over 200 young girls from being sent away, and bringing the anti-bonding message to the community with street plays, leaflets and posters. When we began our work in this area in January 2000, the bonding practice was commonplace and more than tolerated. Hundreds, no thousands, of girls would be sent off to work in the homes of strangers far away every Maghe, without any objection from anybody. We have largely eliminated the practice in our target community, with 2700 young girls who had been indentured now living at home and going to school...

And the J and K House children in Kathmandu did their part. On Maghe, they walked the streets of the city with NYOF staff, giving out leaflets asking passers-by not to employ under-aged children as household servants. Then they returned to the office and ate mountains of steaming momos (dumplings).

The kids are on their winter school holiday and are using the time to have fun and do a little good. They visited a run-down orphanage where the children are not nearly as well cared for as they are, brought the kids’ treats, painted the walls of the dormitory, taught a little English, and sang songs with the little ones.

We also enjoyed an outing to a beautiful mountain area about an hour from Kathmandu, where the kids hiked, played vigorously in the clean mountain air, sang and danced around the fire at night, and watched as a baby deer rescued from the forest by the hotel staff was fed milk from a baby bottle. I get so much pleasure from seeing the kids running around in the fresh, sparkling environment under the shadow of the snow-capped peaks, away from the pollution, noise and crowds of the city.

In this world of drive-by shootings, suicide bombings and mass killings, it’s good to know that there is a place in the world where life is getting better day by day.

Warm regards, Olga


Hello from chilly Kathmandu. Christmas is not observed in Nepal, so it will be an ordinary work day for most, but we “bedeshis” (foreigners) do celebrate together. We also have a non-religious Christmas Eve at J and K House, our children’s homes. Father Christmas comes in full regalia, with stockings for the small children. You cannot imagine their excitement at the small gifts – a piece of candy, a hair band, a handkerchief, a colorful pencil – you’d think we were giving them the latest in video games. It’s great fun – popcorn, hot chocolate, happy kids. And their gift to us is a super dance and drama performance.

But the rewards of my life in Nepal are not confined to Christmas. Each day, I wake up knowing that today, I will help a child in a major way.

The other day, someone from our office showed me an essay written by one of the girls we saved from bonded servitude in the western district of Dang. Her name is Puspa Chaudhary, and she was contracted away by her parents for $14 for a year of labor. After she was liberated by NYOF and our local partner FNC and enrolled in school at our expense, she joined the youth club in her village to campaign against the pernicious custom of indenturing young girls as servants. Here is what she says:

“I was born to a very poor family. My parents are landless and have to work in the field of the landlord. When I was ten years old, the landlord told my parents that they had to send me at his house (to work) otherwise, he would not allow them to work in his field. Seeing no other alternative, my parents sent me to work. My yearly incentive was l000Rs (about $14). Going to the forest, collecting firewood, grazing the animals, cooking and cleaning were my daily routine. In spite of hard work, I had to listen to their filthy scolding and frowning faces. Till a year I endured everything silently.

“At Maghe (festival time) when they released me to go home I was determined that I would not work as Kamlari (bonded servant) again. After Maghi many brokers approached and my parents decided to send me to work once again. I begged, cried, and requested several times not to send me to work. Nobody listened to me. I was sent to work once again. This time I was bit optimistic that I would get a better home than the previous one. Unfortunately, this house was more miserable. I had to work hard doing all the household chores. In addition I had to bear a master who was like a thunderstorm. He was very strict and always spoke harshly. I was so afraid of him that I had nightmare several times. Cursing my destiny, I spent two years.

“When I came home, I came to know NYOF/FNC through my friends. After constant coaxing, I succeed to convince my parents. I enroll in NYOF/FNC’s program and got admitted to class five. Today I am studying in class seven. I am an active member of child club. With my friends we are spreading message against this ill practice.”

So not only will Puspa not have to bear with a ‘thunderstorm” of a boss again, she is getting an education. Such are the rewards of life here.

This may not be your traditional Christmas story, but it made my day. And I hope yours, too. A happy holiday to all of you -



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Organization Information

Nepal Youth Foundation (NYF)

Location: Sausalito, California - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Olga Murray
President and Founder of NYOF
Sausalito, California United States

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