What is better – such terrible life or death? Child labor in Nepal: carpet mills and sex trade.

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After watching the videos “Stolen childhoods” every human’s heart should just burst. A terrible, horrible, awful things….it is even difficult to pick up the words to express the feelings, really…

  • 5.7 million children are in either debt bondage, which means that they are forced to work indefinitely to pay off money advanced to the family or another form of forced labor;
  • 1.8 million children work in prostitution and/or pornography;
  • 1.2 million children a year are trafficked often into prostitution but also not domestic, agricultural or other work;
  • 0.6 million children are involved in other illicit activities;
  • 0.3 million children are participating in an armed conflict.

It is difficult to believe that so many children are suffering everyday and every minute somewhere because of somebody’s irresponsibility. I consider that exactly irresponsibility makes them work for some “uncles” and just spoil their childhood without seeing good days, without playing with children, without having opportunity to study properly in good schools with good books.

It was said that the main risk for child labor is poverty. Child laborers tend to come from poor families.

In robbing children of their childhoods, child labor impedes their development. Play and education are key to physical, cognitive and social development, and child laborers are denied both play and education.

And without having these kinds of development, what is going on inside every child’s soul and body, and mind?

As we know and could see from the videos, Nepal is really among the very poor countries of the world, and beginning in the early 1980’s Nepal’s carpet industry turned increasingly to child labor as demand for rugs from Nepal grew.

Two Nepalese children – Parbati Tiwa and Jhalal Man Tamang, describe what they endure as laborers in carpet factory: there was no medical facility; in winter, the wool used to cut a child’s fingers. But she had to work despite the pain. Food was not enough. Sometimes there was only one meal a day, either lunch or dinner. There was never a full meal. They worked non-stop for long hours, from 6 AM to 8 PM every day.

Terrible conditions of life and this work make children just “miserable rats”. But even this case, rats will feel much better because they are free and they are not obliged to work for long hours without sleep and food.

It was also stated that approximately 12.000 Nepalese children are trafficked each year either within Nepal or to neighboring India and other countries for purposes of sexual exploitation.

And sexual exploitation is the separate very painful topic.

From the video we could see the story of a girl Chhakali who passed through the hardship of being sold and who had to be a prostitute in her so young age.

I have decided to write the words of every character from the video and then analyze them.

Chhakali Bal says: “A family was very poor. We had a cow and it went to the fields. My mother’s sister-in-law came with sweets and asked me to go to the movies with her. As I was a kid, I was very keen on watching movies. So, I agreed. She said she would wait for me to get changed. I fed the fodder to the cow, changed and went back to her. We left. But instead of going to the movies, she took me to her place. She had a different plan for me. She wanted to introduce me to a guy. But I refused. She said she meant well for me. She said that I am poor and unhappy and no matter how hard I work, my parents will still beat me up.

This guy KC lived at my mother’s sister’s house. He smoked and so did I. He used to offer me cigarettes. One day, he offered me a smoke. I didn’t know if he had put anything in the cigarette. I went to the river to bathe and he followed me. He said he was going to Kathmandu and asked me if I would go. Somehow I could not say yes or no. He picked up my clothes, put them on a bus and I followed him. I didn’t know why or how… But when I reached Kathmandu, I realized what was going on. We travelled for 3 nights on a train. After getting off the train we boarded a jeep. They took us to a brothel. I was crying. They sent a guy to me because I cried. He dragged me inside a room and tried to force himself on me. I bit him on the hand and ran out. They told me that I had been sold for 30.000 rupees.”

Rekha Shresta (Administrative Officer, GWP) says: “The first time we met Chhakali, she was in bed. She did not say that she had returned from India. She did not say that she had AIDS. The first day we visited her, we cleaned her wounds and loved her like a sister. Then we met her every day.”

Chhakali says: “They told me that if I work for GWP, I would go around the village, meet people like you and me, give them pamphlets and advise them. So I started going to the villages with them. I tell people that we are their sisters and we have come to talk to them about AIDS, how it is transmitted, and how HIV can develop into AIDS. We advise our friends in the village that they should always carry condoms in their pockets.”

Shukre Lama (Chhakali’s husband) says: “People come from all over to ask us about our work and we tell them. If someone had told me, then maybe I would have been spared. So I educate others because if somebody tells them now, then they will be aware.”

Social worker says: “I’m actually impressed with Chhakali for the fact that she has come out and spoken about her life and about what she went through, this kind of trauma are basically either too shy or too hurt and too bruised even to want to express themselves…”

These children from the videos really had a terrible life and they had to survive in such conditions. Parents either could not or didn’t want to help their children, they just let their children pass these circles of hell. I’d never wished any child to be in such situation.

When I watched these videos, pain and sorrow penetrated me. Really horrible life, really terrible destinies…Children are not guilty that they were born in such poor families, in such poor, bad conditions for life, but children still had to pay for all this by their childhood, their health, their possible education, their bodies and maybe even their lives in general because not all of them could be strong and overcome this….many of them finished with their lives…

Stolen childhoods: helping child laborers in Nepal

Ajay Singh Karki (executive Director of Nepal Rugmark Foundation): “Nepal Rugmark was established in December 1995 as a part of a global nonprofit initiative to remove child labor from the carpet industry of Nepal. Nepal Rugmark in the last 6 years has achieved a lot. NRF has already rescued around 465 children, all of which we have wanted to give an education, and rehabilitate around 324 children. At present still we have 144 children in our three rehabilitation centers, and apart from this under the community based rehabilitation, we are supporting 76 children for their education need.”

Volunteer: “So you learn how to read here at Rugmark? You must like reading because you read very well.”

Ajay Singh Karki: “The operative school is basically part of a cooperative society, and Rugmark has partnered with them. We run one office and rehabilitation center, because we believe in community support, and our children are studying in their school. And they have been supporting us in terms of accepting the carpet children, which is normally a difficult thing to happen under normal terms in other schools.”

Volunteer: “It’s kind of an interesting system they have set up here. Very codependent, very integrated. And at the same time Rugmark, to me, is a very unique business. They’re kind of in the business of eradicating themselves, of eradicating the problem of child labor in the rug. Yet at the same time, they’re very dependent on the rug industries to fund the support for the children, their schooling, their clothing, their meals, et cetera.”

Ajay Singh Karki: “We provide them all the educational material, fees, uniforms, stationery, and everything. We have recently started daycare centers, which is a good achievement for NRF. It shows that the workers have been able to give a better output to their owners…”

My feeling towards this video is really inspiring. I’m glad that there really exists such foundations, such programs which help poor children to develop and these programs provide poor children a chance to become educated, happy and successful in their lives.

Rugmark really does a great job by rescuing children’s lives and giving them an opportunity to live a decent, normal life.

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