Adrienne Henck

Adrienne Henck (Backward Society Education - BASE): Adrienne graduated from New York University with a Master’s degree in International Education. After her graduation, Adrienne worked at PCI-Media Impact, an NGO that uses creative media and story-telling to mobilize people and communities in sexual and reproductive health. Adrienne also taught English for three years with the J.E.T. Program. When she undertook her fellowship, Adrienne was preparing to pursue a Ph.D. at Penn State University. After her fellowship, she wrote: “I know that (this) experience is going to have a lasting impact on my academic and professional career. I loved Nepal and plan to return as soon as possible. I definitely have a newfound appreciation for how much we have in America."

Education under the rubber tree

20 Jun

Every day before beginning work, BASE staff members usually take time to socialize in the office courtyard.  Sitting in red and blue plastic chairs in the shade of a rubber tree, they read the daily newspaper, talk about politics and exchange personal stories.  One morning the friendly Diplal, BASE’s Administrative Head, decided to forgo the usual lighthearted banter and school me on the breadth of BASE’s work. 

BASE office courtyard: a space for socializing and learning

Bonded Labor.  Child Labor.  Education.  Human rights.  Health.  Family Planning.  Women’s socio-economic development.  Gender equity.  Microfinance.   My head was spinning as he spouted off the issues BASE’s work addressed and their acronymed program names (e.g. CBCDC for Child-based Development Center, CDDD for Child Development Discussant Program, and C2C for Child to Child Education…).  BASE’s work seems to touch on every issue.  They are everywhere, doing everything.  I couldn’t help but wonder, what is the common thread?

I have realized that it all comes back to education.  Bonded labor was abolished in 2000; however, two over-arching problems have remained.  For one, the government did nothing to rehabilitate the freed kamaiyas (bonded laborers).  The law granted them freedom, but with no land, skills or education, they were prisoners of poverty.  And for the other, persistent poverty has given rise to and perpetuated the rampant system of child labor that exists today.  Families, unable to provide for all of their children, have been hoodwinked by false promises of schooling and big city futures.  Ultimately, their children end up being sent away to distant, unknown places and enslaved as domestic workers. 

BASE’s core approach rests on the tenet that through education, Tharus can rise above their marginalization and claim their basic human rights.  This is a classic rights-based approach to development.  And I love it!

For a great synopsis of the history of the Tharus narrated by BASE President Dilli Chaudhary, check out this video by 2009 Peace Fellow, Kan Yan.

Posted By Adrienne Henck

Posted Jun 20th, 2010


  • Kate Bollinger

    June 21, 2010


    Hi Adrienne! Sounds like things are going well in the Terai – and BASE sounds like a great organization! I’ve just arrived in Kathmandu to begin work with the WRRP. Good luck with everything and I’ll be looking forward to continuing to read your blog 🙂

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