Stop Girl Trafficking in Nepal

by American Himalayan Foundation
Stop Girl Trafficking in Nepal
Stop Girl Trafficking in Nepal
Stop Girl Trafficking in Nepal
Stop Girl Trafficking in Nepal
Stop Girl Trafficking in Nepal
Stop Girl Trafficking in Nepal
Stop Girl Trafficking in Nepal
Stop Girl Trafficking in Nepal
Stop Girl Trafficking in Nepal
Stop Girl Trafficking in Nepal
Stop Girl Trafficking in Nepal
Stop Girl Trafficking in Nepal
Stop Girl Trafficking in Nepal
Stop Girl Trafficking in Nepal
Stop Girl Trafficking in Nepal
Stop Girl Trafficking in Nepal
Stop Girl Trafficking in Nepal
Stop Girl Trafficking in Nepal
Stop Girl Trafficking in Nepal
Stop Girl Trafficking in Nepal

STOP Girl Trafficking is active in five districts in Nepal’s West, and these districts account for almost a quarter of the 10,000 girls under our protection.

Before Nepal went into lockdown again in May, AHF field director, Bruce Moore, spent a week in Nepal’s West to meet with SGT students, their families, and teachers. He has visited this area at least a dozen times in Moore’s 20 years with AHF. With every trip he learns something new about the people, their cultures and history.

One major takeaway from Bruce’s observations of being in the field is clear: to ensure brighter futures for young women today, understanding the historical context of their realities is vital in moving forward. Bruce’s interactions with one young Badi woman reflects this.

 A Field Dispatch by Bruce Moore, AHF Field Director

The Badi, the lowest caste found in Nepal’s West, are sometimes referred to as “untouchables among the untouchables”. Until the 1950s, the Badi community were entertainers whose patrons (local landed lords) provided them with housing, land, food, and clothes. In return, the Badi sang and danced for them and their guests. Badi women also were expected to provide sexual favors for their master.

In 1951, with the fall of the Rana regime, these local lords could no longer afford to employ the Badi families and, to survive, Badi women were forced into the commercial sex trade. They operated from their homes, so their daughters were desensitized from an early age and fatalistically accepted that they too would become prostitutes.

Education in general, and particularly for girls, was in no way a priority.

Things have improved for the Badi more recently with government development programs, and home-based sex work is mostly a thing of the past. The stigma, however, still sticks to the name.

Janaki is a young Badi woman determined that her future will not be dictated by fate. Things turned around for her nine years ago when her second eldest sister left school in grade seven to get married. This meant Janaki’s family could now barely afford to start sending her to school — at the age of eleven. SGT found and helped her a couple of years later.

Age to grade ratio is important when assessing girls’ risk factors. Girls who start later are often bullied and embarrassed, and it is an often-cited reason for them dropping out. In Janaki’s case, she was more than twice the age of the other children in her class. This, and the discrimination she faced as a Badi, brought her into SGT. She is now 20 years old and in grade 11.

I was impressed with her and asked what advice she would give to other girls in her position.

“I would tell them don’t think of the now, think of the future,” she said very confidently. “Thanks to SGT, my life is going to be very different than my sisters. I have the chance to be someone, I have a future to look forward to, they are stuck in time. I’m the first Badi woman in this area to be a junior in high school. After grade 12, I’ll find a job to help me pay for my bachelor’s, and I also want to be one of SGT’s Friday teachers. I’m interested in early childhood development and want to work with young children.”

I told her about a couple of SGT alums who now ran successful pre-schools and that piqued her interest.

“That is something I could certainly aim for,” she told me.

STOP Girl Trafficking keeps girls safe and in school, yes. But it does much more. It also encourages and empowers them to be change agents and break free, finally, of the generational cycle of poverty and discrimination.

On behalf of SGT’s founder and leader, Dr. Aruna Uprety, and the tens of thousands of Nepalese girls in and graduated from SGT, thank you, thank you. You have saved and transformed so many young lives, and you have their and our endless gratitude

Janaki, one of many ambitious SGT girls
Janaki, one of many ambitious SGT girls
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An SGT student studying in her home in Kavre,Nepal
An SGT student studying in her home in Kavre,Nepal

STOP Girl Trafficking (SGT) prevents girls from being trafficked by keeping them safe in school. With a network that reaches deep into rural Nepal, SGT finds the girls most in danger of being trafficked into slavery, child labor, or forced marriage, and gives them an education and what they need to succeed. These girls come from families and communities with crushing poverty, long histories of abuse, and deep-seated gender discrimination. The longer they stay in school, the safer they are and the more they learn and grow.

The American Himalayan Foundation (AHF) hosts a STOP Girl Trafficking evening every spring in San Francisco to raise funds and awareness for this critical work. Given the challenges brought by the pandemic, we held the event virtually this year – making it accessible to people around the world.

A recording of the event is available to watch here. The program will bring you on a virtual trip to Nepal to meet the SGT girls, visit their homes and schools, and hear about their challenges and dreams. We hope you’ll take 35 minutes to watch the video, see how SGT works on the ground, and hear the inspiring – sometimes heartbreaking – stories of these brave girls.

Thank you for helping to transform the lives of girls in Nepal. Your generous heart makes all the difference, and we are so grateful to you for believing in them. They will get back to school, thanks to you.

Watch the video here.

SGT girls in Udayapur sending their thanks to you
SGT girls in Udayapur sending their thanks to you

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SGT girls in socially-distanced outdoor classes.
SGT girls in socially-distanced outdoor classes.

STOP Girl Trafficking (SGT) prevents girls from being trafficked by keeping them safe in school. With a network that reaches deep into rural Nepal, SGT finds the girls most in danger of being trafficked into slavery or child marriage, enrolls them in school, and gives them what they need to succeed. These girls come from families and communities with crushing poverty, long histories of abuse, and deep-seated gender discrimination. The longer they stay in school, the safer they are and the more they learn and grow.

Schools in Nepal finally started to reopen in late October, with staggered schedules to reduce crowding, after closing their doors in March. Since September, the SGT team has been busy conducting field visits to distribute uniforms and school supplies, meet with girls and their families, and check in with the teachers, volunteers, and some local government officials.

The SGT girls are thrilled to be back and putting those copy books to good use, even with the shorter days. Twelve-year-old Parbati (who has six elder sisters and an elder brother, none of whom made it past grade nine) put it well: “I don’t understand why we can only go to school for two hours now, it used to be six, and six is better than two,” she said. “But two is better than none at all — isn’t it!”

It’s been a challenging year, but AHF and the SGT team have risen to the challenge to keep girls safe. We cannot thank you enough for helping us meet this challenge. We and the 10,000 girls whose futures are brighter because of you are enormously grateful. Thank you!

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Friday Teacher Shrijana tutoring SGT girls
Friday Teacher Shrijana tutoring SGT girls

Schools in Nepal have been closed since March. But that hasn’t stopped Dr. Aruna Uprety from keeping the STOP Girl Trafficking (SGT) girls safe.

Aruna and her team have, year by year, girl by girl, built up an amazing grassroots network of SGT alumnae (aka the alums). Some alums work as Friday teachers to tutor and mentor younger girls and, importantly, are SGT’s eyes and ears in the villages, watching out to make sure the girls are safe and intervene when needed. Now, during the Covid lockdown, they are also SGT’s arms and legs because they are still allowed to move around within their communities. They are not just keeping the girls safe from being trafficked or abused, but also keeping them Covid-safe and encouraging them to keep learning and keep moving forward. Friday teachers were mobilized to share Covid prevention information in their communities through visits, calls, and a booklet. Groups of alums even sewed and distributed several thousand face masks.

The pandemic has taken a devastating toll, particularly in the vulnerable SGT communities. Most parents work as day laborers, but there is no work now — and that means no food for their children. Since the lockdown began, the Friday teachers have visited the homes of over 1,000 SGT girls to educate families about Covid, check on how the girls and their families are doing, and report back. They found 22 families of SGT girls in especially dire circumstances and got them food and some financial support to stave off disaster.

During home visits, the Friday and support teachers also make sure the SGT girls have collected textbooks from their schools to use and encourage them to study and express themselves through drawing, writing, or whatever keeps them connected to learning. Some, like Shrijana in Makwanpur, have even been convening small (socially distanced) groups of girls and tutoring them since the schools remain closed.

Another alum, Bipana, told us:

"When the lockdown started in Nepal, I formed a women’s group in my community with 25 women. The group was formed to uplift women and to create social awareness. The group holds meetings frequently to discuss their problems and support one another during this pandemic. I have provided information related to Covid and its safety measures in the group. The group was able to receive agricultural seeds from our ward, and now is making a plan for goat farming. I still have to do a lot for my community during this pandemic"

And this inspiring young woman was once a girl at risk of dropping out of school and falling victim to traffickers. SGT alumnae never cease to inspire us with their initiative and dedication to helping their communities.

Your kindness has allowed Aruna and SGT to keep girls safe and provided the grounding so that, after they graduate, alums can become leaders in their communities and advocates for younger girls, especially in these challenging times. This is transformative work you are supporting.

Women's group started by Bipana (second right)
Women's group started by Bipana (second right)

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As the world shelters and slows, STOP Girl Trafficking is even more important to keep at-risk girls in Nepal safe. The whole country is on strict lockdown, and many parents are out of work and struggling. Laborers who travel to cities or India for work are returning home and bringing the risk of Covid to their villages without clinics or hospitals nearby. They have no choice; their jobs are gone. And none of them know when they’ll be able to return to work and earn money again.

This will put girls even more in danger from traffickers as parents lose their tiny incomes and become desperate, especially now that schools are closed, cutting girls off from vital safety nets. But Dr. Aruna Uprety and her team are keeping close track of the girls in SGT, staying in touch and getting the word out about how to stay safe right now – both from the virus and from predators who would take advantage.

The specter fast rising is hunger, looming over towns and villages alike. In the most vulnerable communities, where SGT girls live, it has already arrived. Aruna and her team are preparing to get emergency food relief to villages already in the shadow of hunger as soon as the lockdown lifts.

Meanwhile, SGT alums have started making face masks for their communities. One alum who had started a small sweater knitting factory has retooled to make masks as well. Talk about community role models!

This is a difficult time for everyone. We do not know what the coming months will bring as the pandemic crisis unfolds, but we are committed to keeping these girls safe and helping their families weather the storm. As Aruna recently reminded me, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Please, we need your help. Your kindness towards these at-risk girls will touch their lives in even more essential ways during this precarious time. When it is safe, they will pick up their school backpacks again and head into a more thoughtful, careful year. And you will have made that possible.

  

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American Himalayan Foundation

Location: San Francisco, CA - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Sarah Bakker
San Francisco, CA United States
$41,914 raised of $50,000 goal
 
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