Close your eyes for a second and think of a girl you love; it could be your daughter, your sister, your niece or a cousin. Then imagine how your life would be, how you would feel if they just… disappeared. For many families in Nepal, this is a sad reality.
You may be under the impression that slavery is a thing of the past. But the reality is that 1.2 million children worldwide are trafficked every single year, disappearing out of their family’s lives in an instant. Does it feel real now?
In Nepal, it is estimated that between 12,000 and 15,000 children are trafficked every year[i], predominantly into brothels in India. It’s believed that this situation has significantly worsened since the April earthquakes as traffickers exploit the post-earthquake destruction, some even posing as aid workers. Despite the Nepali government increasing the number of checkpoints at the borders, the Home Ministry estimates that human trafficking from Nepal to India has seen a 300% increase since the earthquakes, with 60% being women and children sold into sex work.
If you were a mother in Nepal, how could you keep your children safe? Would you be inclined to believe the kind stranger who offers your child work in the city, especially if it provided additional income for the family? Would you think that your son or daughter would have a better life with this stranger? These questions are faced by mothers and fathers in Nepal every day since the earthquakes.
What is surprising, is the significant gap in the response to human trafficking – prevention. There are few measures in place to stop children from being trafficked in the first place. There is even less focus on increasing community awareness, or engaging children and parents directly in addressing trafficking in their communities.
At Childreach International, we are working hard to ensure that children in Sindhupalchowk, one of the districts most affected by both the earthquake and child trafficking, are taught, not trafficked. Post-earthquake, our team in Nepal worked tirelessly to ensure that the children that have remained in the district have been able to continue learning in a safe environment, through constructing temporary shelters made of tarpaulin. With the cold winter setting in, it is vital to ensure that schools are rebuilt immediately to reduce even more children dropping out of school and going missing.
On 20th November, our team in Nepal were proud to open their first ten classrooms in Banskharka, Sindhupalchowk. However, simply rebuilding classrooms is not enough. Parents need to be made aware of the importance of sending their children, both boys and girls, to school, and their livelihoods need to be rebuilt to stop parents being forced to send their children away for work to support their families. By working together to diversify their skills and increase their household income, they are better able to afford to send their children to school. Using the successful approach of our School Farming programme in Tanzania, we are setting up vegetable gardens for each school which, when harvested, will provide children with a hot meal at lunch. For many, this will be their only hot meal of the day. Through street dramas, art workshops and sessions with trafficking survivors, the whole community will learn the damaging realities of sending children away for work, and how to better protect their children.
With improved access to education and increased awareness, children in Sindhupalchowk will be able to take a stand and ensure that they are taught, not trafficked.