Two former bonded servants at a children's home
In rural Nepal, some families are so impoverished that they sell their daughters to be virtual slaves. Many of these girls are abused, almost none attend school, and some are forced into prostitution. After spending their childhoods as servants, the girls face great challenges learning to support themselves. Now boys are also being sold into bonded servitude.
The Nepal Youth Foundation is eradicating this abhorrent tradition. NYF’s Indentured Daughters Program rescues girls from virtual slavery, brings them home to be educated, and empowers them to be self-sufficient.
The pioneering Indentured Daughters Program uses a multifaceted approach to free girls who were sold into servitude. For only $100, the Nepal Youth Foundation liberates a bonded servant, brings her home, gives her family a piglet, goat, or sheep as compensation for her wages, and ensures she can go to school – often for the first time in her life. NYF is eliminating the inhumane practice of enslaving girls in Nepal through a vigorous public awareness campaign that turns communities against the practice, as well as by rescuing bonded servants.
NYF has freed 11,951 girls since the program began in 2000. 7,433 of them are currently receiving scholarships. NYF has now liberated more than 90% of the bonded girls and is close to its goal of ending the custom.
The program has been so effective that schools in the area began to overflow with former indentured servants. To ensure they have access to quality education, NYF constructs classrooms in poorly funded schools. The organization has built 58 classrooms to date.
Some of the girls NYF rescues are orphans and others are rejected or abused by their families. The organization has placed 357 of these girls in children’s homes where they are surrounded by other former bonded servants and feel a sense of family.
Due to the success of the project, wealthy families began buying boys instead of girls. A recent survey estimated that 1,814 boys younger than 14 were indentured in Nepal. NYF began to address this in 2011–2012 by liberating 650 of them. 547 are currently attending school.
Sustainability of the Program
Now that the vast majority of the bonded girls are free, the Nepal Youth Foundation has shifted its focus from rescuing them to empowering them to be independent and successful. In 2011-2012, almost 500 former bonded servants participated in trainings about topics such as cooperative management, marketing, self-employment, and small business management. These programs develop their confidence as well as their skills and enable them to start their own businesses. NYF arranged training in political activism and human rights for about 100 of the most dynamic girls who show the greatest potential to become leaders of the movement against bonding.
Under NYF’s guidance, many of the girls have formed cooperatives that create financial opportunities for themselves and their families. They invest in the coops to become members, and collectively decide how to use the money to generate income. They also borrow money from the cooperatives to start business ventures. Due to the girls’ determination and newfound confidence, as well as the trainings provided, the coops have been extremely successful. To date, liberated girls have established 16 cooperatives and are in the process of forming 12 more.
Furthermore, former indentured servants have formed an NGO called the Freed Kamlari Development Forum (FKDF). NYF trains its members to carry out the awareness campaign against servitude which NYF started, and since June 2010, all of NYF’s work in the program area has been conducted through FKDF. FKDF is now organizing marches and public speeches, as well as mobilizing youth clubs, community leaders, and the media in the campaign to oppose bonded servitude. In collaboration with FKDF, NYF convinced the government of Nepal to fund the education and vocational training of all formerly bonded girls.
Because this money was not being allocated properly, in 2011-2012, NYF arranged for the leaders of FKDF to meet repeatedly with the President, Prime Minister, Education Minister, and other high-ranking government officials. The Prime Minister promised that the government funding for the liberated girls would get to where it was needed.
Through FKDF and the cooperatives, former indentured daughters have established an extensive network throughout Western Nepal that empowers them to fulfill their dreams.
Girls rescued from servitude are now in school
A girl saved from a childhood of bonded servitude