Alex Kelly

Alex Kelly (Backward Education Society - BASE): Alex served in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica from 2007-2009 in the Children, Youth and Families Program. He then worked as the field operations manager for the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children in El Salvador until July 2011. At the time of his fellowship, Alex was studying for a Masters degree at the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University in the International Relations and Security concentration. After his fellowship Adam wrote: "I enjoyed the chance to get know Nepal and Tulsipur. It was very helpful to see the problems affecting children in a part of the world that I had never been. The chances to go out into the field, as sparse as they were, were very instructive and enjoyable."

So Many Adults to Choose From

24 Jul


I don’t understand why people employ child labour in Nepal when the unemployment levels for adults are so astronomically high. According to official government statistics unemployment is over 40% and some estimates have it even higher. Why the hell do you need to employ children when you have so many adults to employ? In a country that is so destitute and so many people are looking for work the wage demands of the adults cannot be that high. Over 80% of people in Nepal live on under $2 a day. This is such a pittance; though we have already discussed the small amount that bonded child labourers are paid. Sure the children can bring money into their family, but if adults are employed instead of children the money will come in just the same and the children will have an opportunity for education and a better future in the long term.

In school where they belong!

Is it that the rich and powerful in Nepal are so callous and so cheap that they want the power and savings that come with employing a child? The power that they can have over a child is greater than that over an adult. Does it make them feel better to have someone’s life basically in their hand? I am trying to reconcile this fact with the Nepali people that I know, the kindness that I see and the willingness to help. However, the fact that so many people do employ child labour is unmistakable and to me incomprehensible.

This leads to how to get people to stop employing child labour. The work that BASE has done in harnessing community pressure and incentives to free children from bonded labour are important. Additionally the transition of the fight from only bonded labour to all child labour is an additional important step to let society know that any form of child labour will not be accepted by the community. These steps are essential in a country where one cannot call on the authorities to help. This is often because the authorities are complicit in the transgressions or powerless to help.

Nepal is going on year 16 of a political crisis that has included a civil war, civilian deaths at mass protests, countrywide strikes and more. The most current iteration of this crisis is the collapse of the constitutional Assembly in May. They were unable to agree on a constitution before their mandate ran out or before it was called off by the government depending on which side you believe.  The upside of all these political crises is a collapse in tourism, a lack of international investment and overall chaos. In a situation where impunity is high and the economy is not functioning child labour and trafficking has flourished.

This still does not answer the question as why people hire children when there are such reserves of adults willing to work.  I hate to conclude that the answer comes down to the fact that children are cheaper and more easily controllable, even if the money saved is small, it is still money saved. I refuse to believe that this is ok and that this will continue. The political parties all agree on the need to protect children, but they are too busy struggling for power to do anything about this at the moment. Till an effective government can make it dangerous to employ children and people decide it is not worth the risk of jail, it is up to organizations such as BASE to marshal all of their weapons in the fight. These weapons cannot just be yelling at those who employ child labourers, even though punching them and yelling some sense into them would feel so good. It has to be community work, community pressure and a change of societal needs

Posted By Alex Kelly

Posted Jul 24th, 2012


  • Andrew

    July 24, 2012


    Society will always need charities and NGOs to help the people that fall through the cracks in the safety net the government provides. In places like Nepal, right now those cracks are extremely wide. I had no idea the adult unemployment rate was that high, and if I had I probably would not have put two and two together like this. But it’s true that if this is the case, child labor must come down to the greed and cheapness of the employers.

    How goes your work with BASE in combating this? Also, great picture with the kids! Its great to see that at least SOME children have the opportunity to attend school and break the cycle of poverty.

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