It was nearly a century ago when slavery was abolished in this beautiful nation but less than one decade ago when debt-bondage slavery was revoked. Abolitionists everywhere cheered when Nepali slave-owners were forced to free their servants. That is until they realized the slaves had nowhere to go.
Because of this, the Kailali area , settled in southwest Nepal and known for its bonded labor practices, is at high risk for human trafficking. Many villages in the Kailali area are impoverished with dangerously few jobs and limited educational opportunities, especially for girls.
Just three decades ago, the elders of BT Cluster* migrated from the mountains to the Kailali district in hopes of escaping severe oppression. With no money, no job opportunities, and a social caste system that considers these individuals (Dalits, otherwise known as The Untouchables) to be worthless, they cleared out a space in the forest in hopes of building a better tomorrow.
Thirty years later, these villagers are still considered squatters and remain amongst the poorest of the poor in the world. Additionally, gender inequality is a sad reality in this village, as is the case for most of rural Nepal. Females are seen as second-class citizens; Property of their male counterparts.
The daily 4-hour chore of collecting water hinders the girls from getting an education, which in turn disables them from being able to provide for themselves or financially support their families. Thus, many of the girls in BT Cluster are married off as early as 14 years old and never given the opportunity to fulfill their own dreams. Likewise, in the Kailali district young women and children are frequently taken abroad with the false promise of jobs but instead are enslaved and sexually exploited.
*For purposes of security and well-being, “BT Cluster” is a pseudonym of the village being helped by this project.