Rescuing Young Girls from Bonded Labor in Nepal

by Nepal Youth Foundation (NYF)
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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!


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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

We have rescued 800 girls in our target area and have arranged with another NGO to rescue 800 more. Currently, our project is planning to rescue the remaining 100 girls in our target area. Since we have just about defeated the bonding practice in our target area, we are moving in January to another area where the practice exists. This is truly a success story for us. Last week, we paid a visit to this project (the cease fire called by the Maoists made this possible), and I was so proud to see how much we have accomplished there. We met hundreds of young girls formerly bonded looking smart in their school uniforms (including the youngest kid we encountered, a 6 year old who is now in third grade), and went to the new classrooms we built there to accomodate all the girls we had brought home from their labors. We also visited a new aspect of the project, a vocational training program to teach sewing to the girls who are older and want to drop out of school after several years. They have a ready made market for their product - the school uniforms we buy each year for the hundreds of girls who have returned home.


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Organization Information

Nepal Youth Foundation (NYF)

Location: Sausalito, California - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.NepalYouthFoundation.org

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