Indentured Daughters Program Outcomes • 2012
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 inhumane 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 over 12,000 girls since the program began in 2000 and continues to benefit around 11,000 of them in diverse ways. 7,433 of the former servants are currently receiving scholarships. NYF has now liberated more than 98% 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 the girls have access to quality education, NYF constructs classrooms in poorly funded schools. The organization has built 58 classrooms to date.
Some of the children NYF rescues are orphans and others are rejected or abused by their families. The organization has placed 367 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 the auspices of NYF, many of the girls have been given incentives to form cooperatives that create financial opportunities for themselves and their families. NYF provides seed money for the girls to invest in the coops in order to get started. The Coop members collectively decide how to manage their business and how to use the money to generate income. They also borrow money from the cooperative profits to start individual 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 19 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 Nepal’s 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.
A Voice Against the Bonding System
My family of six could not manage even two decent meals a day and so my father sent me away to work as a servant. This was the start of my most miserable days in life. My daily routine was waking up at dawn, mopping the floor, scrubbing dishes, washing clothes, cleaning the shed, and collecting fodder for cattle. I had to do all of these jobs, even when my strength and health failed me. For all the work I did, my family got $20 per year. Almost every day I used to get beaten by the children of my master. There was no one to look after me when I was ill and most days I went to sleep without dinner.
After 2 years, I was rescued from this misery. I had always dreamed of getting an education. This year, I graduated from high school with honors.
Now I want to become a journalist so I can raise my voice against the bonding system. In future I would also like to be a lawyer so I can advocate for the needy and the voiceless people.