As BASE expands and is looking for ways to enhance their child labor program they are on the lookout for potential partner organizations in Nepal. Social Welfare Association Nepal (SWAN) is a Nepalese NGO based in Nepalgunj that also focuses on child labor. After my trip to visit the secretariat of the BAR Association in Ghorahi (as discussed in my previous blog) I met with the President and the Executive Director of SWAN to discuss the organization. Krishana Chaudhary, SWAN’s president, founded SWAN in 1994.
Krishana believes that in order to effectively tackle the issue of child labor Nepal needs to enact land reforms. In Nepal land has always been equivalent to power and wealth. Those with land can profit from crops grown on the land and also sell/mortgage their land in order to pay for their children’s education. Those without land must enter into contracts with the landowners to farm on their land, often agreeing to pay for 50% of equipment purchases and then receiving 50% of the profits from the harvest. Lacking the money for the upfront costs landless farmers will enter into debt with the landowner and must work for them at least until they can pay off their debt. If any other expenses arise and the poor farmer are impelled to resort to loans despite knowing that secured loans do come with risks. In exchange a deal can be made to have the farmer’s child work for the landowner as a way to decrease their debt, bonding the child to the landowner (known as the Kamaiya system) until the debt is paid off. However, given that the child’s food and accommodations are tacked onto the amount owed the debit can take years, and sometimes generations to pay off. Though the Kamaiya system was officially banned in Nepal the practice continues.
SWAN’s President Krishana Chaudhary
SWAN decided to focus on land reforms and child labor as a way to effectively end the practice of Kamaiya by providing poor families with land of their own to work on and support their families. They push the Village Development Committees (VDC) to allocate public lands for use by needy families. They are also trying to get all VDCs in the districts in which they work to create a system of identification so that wealthy landowners are not able to use public lands for their own use in addition to the land they already own, as this has been common practice in Nepal. By ensuring public lands are allocated to those who truly need assistance poor families will be able to grow crops to support their families without having to go into debt and the hope is to prevent their children from becoming Kamaiyas. According to Krishana however, while these land reforms on paper wouldn’t be too difficult to achieve, the mentality among the politicians and powerful elites (who are major landowners) is that if you distribute land to the poor it will somehow diminish their own power.
Photos of SWANs Kamlari program
In addition to their land reform program SWAN also has a Kamlari rehabilitation program. Their main focus is to provide formal education for freed Kamlaris by paying for their tuition up to grade 10. The government covers some of the costs but the rest comes from SWAN, which is actively looking for partners and donations to help fund their efforts. Anyone interested in donating to SWAN’s programs can find the necessary information on their website. SWAN also helps monitor villages for instances of child labor and will report offenders to the Chief District Officer (CDO) who is then charged with rescuing the children. I have also visited the Dang District CDO and will be discussing my findings in my next blog.
SWAN is a much smaller organization than BASE but is also much smaller in its focus. Its selectivity in programs seemingly allows them to focus on creating smaller scale, though quality programs. This expertise could serve as a great assistance to BASE and they seem like a great partner organization for projects in the future.
Posted By Emily MacDonald
Posted Jul 23rd, 2013