Nepal: Fighting the Kamalari slave system
Like thousands of Nepalese girls, Geeta was forced into the Kamalari system of bonded labour as a child and endured years of abuse. Today she's running a café and looking to a brighter future, with help from Plan.
“It was hard. It was very hard.” That is how Geeta Choudhary describes her 7 year-long employment with a local teacher in her south Nepalese village.
The poverty of Geeta’s family meant she was forced into a ‘Kamalari’ contract. The Kamalari system is an old tradition which forces young girls from the Tharu tribe to work in households away from their family.
“It was a situation that was impossible to escape from. Even with all the verbal abuse and all the threats, there was nothing I could do. My master was well connected, he knew everyone. I was afraid of the consequences for my family if I left,” says Geeta.
At 21, Geeta is now free from the contract: she has started her own business, and employs her entire family.
Through Plan’s Kamalari abolition programme, Geeta has been able to rent a roadside café. Plan has invested in very simple chairs, benches and tables, and has taken care of the first 3 months of rent, after which Geeta’s family business will be self-sustaining.
So far, Geeta has made 32,000 rupees – roughly 46 times her annual wage when she worked as a Kamalari.
“Things are changing. Things are getting better. Just this last year, 3 other people have signed similar contracts with Plan and are running their own businesses. Girls are returning home. The atmosphere is different, people feel safer, they are not abused,” She says.
And how does it feel to be the family boss?
“Good. It feels good.”
An extra year of secondary school can increase a girl’s potential income by 15 to 25%.