BASE was founded in 1990 to advocate against the kamaiya system of child-bonded labor. BASE was successful in advocating against the kamaiya system, which was formerly abolished in 2000, though the tradition is still widely practiced. In continuation of its efforts to eradicate child labor, BASE created a program in 2007 to institute the Child Friendly Village (CFV) model in five districts in western Nepal. The CFV model was first instituted in India where it has had success in curbing child labor. CFVs have child clubs, which meet on a regular basis to discuss the importance of education, keep track of at risk children, and intervene when a child is contemplating going to work in factories or other areas to urge them to stay at home and enroll in school. Additionally parent’s clubs meet on a regular basis to guide/support the children’s club and representatives from the Village District Committee (VDC – Nepal’s lowest form of local government) who pledge to support the clubs and help them fight against child labor.
Driving to Manpur through flooded streets after monsoon rains
From 2007-2009 BASE established 254 villages as CFVs throughout five districts in Western Nepal. BASE’s CFV program ended in 2009 but the CFVs still exist, at least in theory. I had the opportunity to visit one such CFV this week, in Manpur not too far from BASE’s office. When I arrived I was greeted by the elected village representative to the VDC, the head of the parent’s club, the president of the child’s club, and several other parent’s committee and children’s club members. I was surprised when Santosh Chaudhary introduced himself as the president of the child’s club as he looked like someone who could no longer claim to be a child. We sat down to discuss the status of the child club, with the help of Yogina, a secretary at BASE, translating for me.
Yogina translating during CFV meeting
Throughout the course of our conversation it became clear to me why Santosh, now an adult, was the head of the child’s club. He was initially elected as head of the child’s club in 2007 when BASE established Manpur as a CFV. From 2007 – 2009 BASE staff members provided some training to the parents and children in Manpur to help them establish and conduct their club meetings. During this two-year period BASE established 30 villages as CFVs within Dang district alone, and there were only two staff members assigned to help all of the clubs in the district.
Both the leader of the parent’s committee and the child club told me the same thing; they liked the parent’s/child groups but that since the BASE program ended five years ago they haven’t held any further meetings. Despite having BASE staff supervise meetings for two years the children didn’t feel equipped to carry out meetings on their own after BASE staff stopped visiting. The children confided that they felt they did not receive enough training or support from BASE during those two years as the BASE staff member assigned to their village was overwhelmed with supervising the other 14 CFVs in the district to which they were assigned, each of which held monthly meetings during this time, and thus were not able to provide them with the support they needed. Furthermore once BASE stopped making regular visits the children had no means to communicate with BASE if any problems or questions arose so eventually stopped holding meetings all together.
From Left to Right: President of Parent’s Club, President of Child club, member of child club, member, of child club, Treasurer of child club
Feeling unable to continue meetings the club became completely paralyzed. They even still have Rs 450 (approx. $4.50 USD) left over (as children paid monthly dues to participate in the club) that they have been saving until a new club starts up. The leaders said they would like to see the children’s club reinstated so they can hand over leadership to a new set of child leaders but despite being trained by BASE in how to hold elections, feel they need BASE to step in and organize a new club and hold elections. They believe that the child club is necessary to teach children the importance of education and about their rights and feel that without a club more children are vulnerable to becoming child laborers. In fact at least one child from their village was sent to work in a nearby brick factory since the club stopped holding meetings.
Whether this is the case of neglect by a overworked BASE staff member, a child’s club that lacks initiative or some combination of the two is unclear. It is certain, however, that the Manpur CFV is not working. That is not to say that this is necessarily the case for all CFVs that BASE established. Last year’s Peace Fellows Rachel and Alex blogged about their visit to a CFV that was still conducting regular meetings and I’ve heard anecdotes of other successful CFVs. Unfortunately there is no way to tell just how effective the program has been as BASE has yet to conduct any follow up evaluation of the program.
While BASE has the best of intentions and has done some amazing work so far, it seems that they may have bit off more than they can chew with the scope of their CFV program. BASE staff members I’ve talked to agree that there needs to be more focus on the existing CFVs to reinforce the program and have a stronger impact, though current work load and limited staff members make this difficult. I will be visiting some other CFVs this summer and hope to use my findings to help BASE reinforce their existing CFVs in order to possibly scale up the project in the future.
Posted By Emily MacDonald
Posted Jun 29th, 2013