My name is Rachel and I’m a University of Michigan grad currently working in western Nepal with Backwards Society Education (BASE), a Nepalese NGO that fights child labor, through a fellowship from the Advocacy Project. The Advocacy Project’s mission is to “give a voice to the voiceless,” so my desire is to give a voice to children from marginalized communities, particularly children who have been exploited by child labor.
I live in Tulsipur, a sizeable town in Dang District, in the Western Terai region near the Indian border. When my family and friends heard that I was moving to Nepal, I think everyone assumed I’d be backpacking through the Himalyas to work in a remote village accessible only by foot. I was told to pack sweaters, boots, and other items for cold weather. Fortunately, I figured that living near the Indian border far from the Himalayas would probably mean that the weather would be hot, so I left the cold weather clothes behind. Although the weather here is much hotter than I anticipated (like a dry version of Borneo, which was the hottest place I’d ever been to prior to Nepal), I’m excited to be here. There is so much work to do in terms of child protection and I’m excited to help BASE advocate on behalf of children’s rights.
I’d like to provide a bit of background information on child labor in Nepal. According to ILO’s 2012 Nepal Child Labour Report (from data collected in 2008), 1.6 million children work as child laborers in Nepal. This number may have increased during the past couple of years and I am hoping to find more recent data. 19.7% of working children work in hazardous conditions and of that percentage, three-fifths of those workers are girls. Hazardous conditions include mining, domestic work, metalwork, textile factories, brick factories…the list goes on and on. It’s hard to believe that children are working in these industries. The very thought prompts me to fight child labor.
I’ve heard people argue that the negative effects of child labor are exaggerated and that Westerners shouldn’t judge a culture for practices we might not fully comprehend. In a country as poor as Nepal, employing children could be seen as an opportunity for families to earn extra income. However, I beg to differ. I believe that child labor prevents children from accessing quality education by keeping children out of school. Even if employers send children to school, children cannot handle the workload placed upon them by employers in addition to pursuing an education. Child labor opens up a Pandora’s box of abuse and hardship and keeps children in a cycle of poverty. Child labor doesn’t improve the lives of children; it impedes their ability to have a childhood and forces them to take on work that is often dangerous and harmful to their development. Additionally, child labor is linked to human trafficking, as laborers are sometimes transported to different regions of Nepal or even across borders to India and other countries for work.
As an AP fellow, one of my goals for the summer is to establish a database to track identify and locate child laborers and their employers. Additionally, my colleague and I will travel to Child Friendly Villages, places that have eradicated or significantly reduced child labor to meet with ex-laborers and learn more about community efforts to end child labor. BASE intends to use the data they will collect and input into the database to rescue children in 8 districts in Nepal to train lawyers to effectively prosecute employers. Nepal has never prosecuted employers of child laborers before, and our goal is to bring people to justice. Additionally, my colleague and I will work with ex-laborers to create quilts called “Love Blankets” to display in the States. It will be a busy summer, but I am confident that we can achieve our goals by the end of the summer.
As I will be working during monsoon season, I anticipate that my internet access may not be reliable. As often as I can, I will update my blog and Flickr account to share my experiences and progress with my readers. I encourage you to follow me on Twitter at @RachelPalmer765 and check out my pictures on Flickr. I look forward to sharing my adventures in Nepal with you all!
Posted By Rachel Palmer
Posted Jun 27th, 2012