Keeping Whanau Together
Bimala and her husband, along with their two children aged seven and nine, have been living in the Doleswar community in Bhaktapur since it was established in 2015. Bimala has been attending the regular HLF adult literacy classes that have been held in the community over the last three years. We are so delighted that Bimala was able to secure employment last year, the classes giving her the confidence to apply for and obtain employment.
This, along with her husband being able to also secure employment locally, and the rental support received by HLF, means they can afford to stay together as a whanau, send their children to school and support their community. Keeping whanau together, it’s what we do with pride at HLF.
Our classes at Doleswar have now grown to include overall development for adults and also the children of the community. This includes training in health and hygiene awareness. We are using the youth of the community who are educated to deliver these classes so everyone is benefiting from these classes in all sorts of different ways.
The Himalayan Leaky Foundation supports women and conducts education and training for their self-sufficiency and empowerment. Skills training enables these women to look after themselves and their families and to provide income to look after their children. HLF has been running adult literacy classes so these women are able to read and write the basic things.
Stopping Child Trafficking
The problem is huge. Every year as many as 20,000 girls from the poorest parts of rural Nepal are trafficked. They and their families are tricked with false promises of good jobs, education, or lured by proposals of marriage from handsome strangers. They end up in brothels, or in homes and factories as slaves, or forced into child marriage, their young lives cut short by trauma and abuse.
How can this happen? Grinding poverty, caste discrimination, and the belief that women have little value; a girl is an extra mouth to feed until she is married off. If she can leave home to earn money for the whanau they may be too desperate to look closely at what her fate might really be.
How can we stop it? The Himalayan Leaky Foundation goes into villages, finds the girls most at risk and puts them into school and keeping them there so they are safe. We also educate the girls and the whanau about the realities and dangers of trafficking and early marriage and weave a protective web of trusted people around the girls, so they can reach out if trouble does arise. The border between Nepal and India is unmonitored; people are able to move easily between the countries without showing necessary papers. This creates an easy avenue for traffickers to smuggle women and children from Nepal to be sold into sex slavery in India. HLF has border stations monitoring the Nepalese-Indian crossing, each cautiously observing and suspicious activity that might suggest a women or child is being trafficked.
We hold trafficking awareness seminars, educating youth in villages and creating awareness of the tools traffickers will use. This is having a positive impact within communities we are working with; applied knowledge is power!
Adult Literacy Classes
The adult literacy classes for women are going really well. Three of the women have been able to secure jobs following their ability to now read and write the basics and sign their names. It’s a sense of empowerment that we take for granted in the western world, but means the world of difference to women in this community. Another amazing by-product of holding these classes is it enables women a safe space to talk about issues affecting them and their whanau. I was lucky to meet one of our class regulars, a woman who has escaped a violent home because of the support offered to her by Himalayan Leaky Foundation. Hearing the experience of another woman gave her the confidence to leave her own situation.
Getting Kids into School
We have also been working closely with Nanimaya (see photo). Her husband, like many others in the area, left Nepal seeking work as it was the only prospect he had to support his family. He left with the promise of work in Qatar but unfortunately was scammed and all the money he earned went to an unscrupulous, so-called consultant, rather than back home to his family. He was barely left with enough money to support himself and worryingly has not been heard from in over three years. Nanimaya’s husband is most likely another victim of human trafficking and sadly there is no way of knowing if he is still alive, let alone if he will ever be able to return to his family in Nepal. When we first met Nanimaya she was close to accepting an offer to adopt out her four beautiful children as she was unable to support any of them and was being coerced into thinking they would have a better life being adopted out. It is very likely the potential ‘adoptions’ were a cover for illegal trafficking. With well-timed intervention and the continuing support of HLF, Nanimaya now has a job and three years later is able to sustain her family. Our next goal is to get the children into school – a luxury cost at this time but one that we hope to assist Nanimaya with going forward so that her children can have a brighter future.