Girl Trafficking and Child Labor in Nepal is an astounding and disturbing book. But more importantly, it is also a book full of inspiration and hope. The focus is Nepal’s girl children who are too often caught up in social and economic circumstances beyond their control, and what is being done about it.
The author, Usha D. Acharya, runs the ‘Underprivileged Girls Education Support Program’ of the ‘Little Sisters’ Fund’. Her organization works in 16 of Nepal’s 75 districts and supports 1200 or more girls in schools. The target is to educate at least 250,000 girls – to give them better prospects in life and prevent them from falling to the twin curses of child labor and trafficking.
The publisher recommends reading chapters 1, 6 and 7 first. There you’ll find a series of ‘heart-rending’ stories about trafficked girls, followed by ‘heart-warming’ success stories about girls who have avoided trafficking. Chapter 7 answers to the author’s question ‘What Am I Doing?’, including several more success stories.
Acharya also discusses the traditional and contemporary causes of child labor in Nepal, and responses to it by government agencies and laws, as well as by NGOs and concerned individuals. And, helpfully, between the Bibliography and Abbreviations list, virtually all important organizations and individuals addressing the problems are noted.
The Annex gives a ‘Suggested Plan of Action’, based on a three-point strategy called APR: ‘A’ for ‘Advocacy and Awareness’, ‘P’ for ‘Prevention and Protection’, and ‘R’ for ‘Rescue, Rehabilitation and Reintegration’. There are also brief discussions of bilateral and regional programs and the roles of NGOs and aid agencies.
Of the numerous girls’ stories, consider Mamata’s. From a poor rural family, she came to Kathmandu at age 14 with her brother to work for a pittance in a carpet factory. There, she fell to a stranger’s promise of a higher paying job in India, but before long she was sold to a Mumbai brothel. Eventually she was rescued and returned to Kathmandu, HIV-positive. Her story is typical.
In Chapter 1 we also learn the trafficking facts: from which districts and which castes and ethnic groups trafficking is most prevalent, and to where most of the girls are sent, including India, China and the Gulf states. The number of trafficked girls today is well over a hundred thousand.
Recruitment is a disturbing business. Traffickers show up in the villages with money and use local accomplices - close kin, friends or village leaders to lure the girls by promises a good job in India or a marriage proposal. Once caught in the trap, the trafficker moves the girl into India, hands her over (sells her) to other guardians, and disappears. “The new ‘guardian(s)’ try to assure the girls(s) that they are their real well-wishers,” but it isn’t long before “the young girls, who are in a completely new place, feel lost, and realize that they are unable to contact who could help them return home.” It is a tragic business, repeated all too often.
Now, consider Sanju’s success story. She was a bright girl from a poor family who, on the premature death of her father, was burdened with caring for her siblings and helping her mother to keep the family fed. Sanju wanted to go to school, but the closest she could get was standing undetected outside the schoolhouse window listening to the teacher’s lessons. Eventually she was seen and questioned, and luckily one of the teachers offered to tutor her each evening at home. Sanju excelled in her studies and today, a decade later, she has fulfilled her dream of becoming a teacher in the village school.
The girls’ stories of difficulty and success are revealing, and some of them point the way to the ultimate solution of applying the author’s APR strategy of educating Nepal’s girls to keep them out of the trap. For all concerned with the issues, Girl Trafficking and Child Labor in Nepal is an important book. ■