How Felt is helping to tackle human trafficking in Nepal.
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. The UN estimates that around 40% of Nepalese people live in poverty. The country is prone to frequent earthquakes, severe thunderstorms, flooding, landslides, and glacial melting, all of which are compounded by the effects of climate change. The devastating earthquake that hit the country in 2015 left nearly 9,000 people dead and experts predict it will take years to rebuild Nepal’s fragile economy.
Many Nepalese families believe that their sons will look after them in old age, so there is little point investing in their daughters. Education is not generally available for girls. It’s common for women and girls to be sold by their families, who are deep in poverty, because women are seen as a burden with little or no value to the household economy.
Human trafficking sees as many as 15,000 women sold and trafficked out of Nepal every year. They are often sent into India where they to work in circuses, to work as domestic workers, and, more commonly, to work in the sex industry. It is suggested that the average age of women trafficked is 15 – with some girls as young as 7.
The women are forced to work and are often beaten if they do not comply. They are unable to leave their new ‘workplaces’, are paid little or nothing and are fed meagre rations. Sex workers are forced to have sex up to forty times a day and younger sex workers are seen as having a greater value.
If the women are able to escape their new ‘lives’ or, as is sometimes the case, they become infected with HIV / AIDS, they are often ostracised from their families and villages and struggle to build a new life.
Get Paper Industries (GPI) are Providing Reasons to Smile Again!
GPI has been a partner with Traidcraft for nearly 20 years. GPI is focused on women’s empowerment – the majority of workers are women. A portion of GPI’s income goes to GWP [General Welfare Prathistan], its sister charity which focuses on education (particularly girls’ education), health education (especially HIV/AIDS awareness) and human trafficking. This work is done via GWP’s network of women’s self-help groups which organise saving and loan schemes as well as education programs. GWP has five schools and scholarships are offered to children of GPI’s workers and poor people in the school’s catchment area.
Traidcraft is providing support and funding to help GWP with a felt workshop it has set up in Hetauda, southern Nepal. This workshop provides employment to women who have either been trafficked or who are at risk of being trafficked into the sex industry. There are currently ten women working there.
Case Study: Sumitra
Sumitra is a young woman who was gang raped by a group of men from her own village. Because the men were very powerful her family were too afraid to stand up to them and as a result she was asked to leave the village. She reached the GWP field office crying, alone, and afraid. There she met Mrs. Parbati Bartaula, who listened to her story. GWP comforted and re-assured Sumitra, providing her with counselling, STI testing, and safety. She was then given craft training and employment in the felt production workshop at GPI.
“Now I am working in felt craft production I am confident, calm and living with self-respect.”
Felt is an important craft business in Nepal and Traidcraft is working to find GPI new markets so that the women will have work all year round, and will be able to take more control of the business, learn new skills and earn a better income. Traidcraft is currently the felt workshop’s only customer, so we really need your help to support the amazing work they do. Without enough orders, these women could once again be without work and exposed to threats from exploitation.
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, let’s spread the word about this project and ‘Let It Grow!’ By purchasing any of the following products you are directly supporting GPI and helping to put more smiles back on more faces of those affected by this awful problem.
Jolly Felt Stars – hung on a length of ribbon these make great bunting for children’s bedrooms
Felt Sheep Ornaments – which make perfect pincushions for crafters
Cat and Dog purses – ideal for carrying pocket money around in!
The above article first published on traidcraft.co.uk in Jan, 2016.