Today was the BEST day ever. Like, ever-ever. Well probably not, but it sure as heck felt like it 🙂
For those who forgot, Maddie and I have been asked to collect qualitative data in the Kathmandu area regarding human trafficking in Nepal, with a special focus on sex trafficking and child labour. I did not know when I signed up for this that I would actually get the opportunity to speak with influential people in this area of research in Nepal, but also in the world. What was the most impressive part of today was hearing the passion behind every organization. It was truly inspiring and motivating for me to keep doing what I am doing.
We first set off with our translator, and staff social worker to an organization that specializes with trafficked children within Nepal for labour with a focus in domestic violence and sexual abuse. To get there though we had to take what they call a “micro” bus. To give you an image, imagine a very mini bus that is stuffed with way too many people. The size of it though is comparable to construction worker’s truck (gosh, what are those even called). So many people that Maddie’s bum was hanging out of the “bus”, with the door open, just so we would fit. I had to bend my body in a 90 degree angle just to fit. Yes, that means my ass was out in the open unfortunately.
On route to our second location we got to speak with the executive director and co-founder, as well as the president and founder of SASANE Nepal. I was completely impressed with the entire experience there haha. They went through a thorough explanation of the entire organization, and answered everything we were looking for.
The idea behind SASANE is very unique. They work with female survivors of sex trafficking who have their high school diplomas and train them to become paralegals. This serves many purposes. For one, it helps them better understand their own legal battle when pressing charges on their traffickers. Second, it allows them to offer information to other vulnerable women in similar situations, while also providing mentorship. Thirdly, it elevates their social status given that they cannot reintegrate due to the stigma of their sex work. This last part is so vital because it allows them to transform their public appearance in their communities. Finally, it provides them with economic independence in that paralegal jobs in Nepal pay well over the average Nepalese income. The director has also worked for 20 years as a human rights lawyer at what would be considered the supreme court level here. He’s also conducted research interviews with over 2000 traffickers and survivors of trafficking, collaborating with American, Swedish and Canadian Universities such as UofT and UofC. I was pretty star struck, and soaked up every minute of that interview.
After lunch (obviously yummy–we’re in Nepal after all) we went to a large police station that has a trafficking unit to interview officers in the field. What I thought was most interesting about that experience was how officers recognize that trafficking is a problem in Nepal, yet within their jurisdiction there has not been a reported trafficking case in over two years. We were told that as high as 96% of women who are rescued from trafficking do not press charges against their traffickers. It was shocking to know that millions of women are trafficked out of Nepal annually, yet not a single one in this area has reported it. An indication it is nonexistent? Hmmm…doubtful.
On the way home I was staring at the young boy working in one of the “micros” who did not look older than 10. I tapped his shoulder and asked him how old he was, and he couldn’t understand English. When I asked in Nepali he turned his head away from me. On our next bus ride, a police officer stopped our bus. He had a pretty animated discussion with the driver about the child who worked on the bus. Afterwards, I asked another passenger on the bus (yah I’m nosy get over it) who told me that the officer was upset about how young the boy was on the bus. He instructed the driver that the driver should not be employing children under the age of 14, and that he should not let them hang off the side of the bus.
To give you some context: How buses run is that the driver drives while a child (always male) hangs off of the side of the door yelling the major intersections that the bus goes to. He is the one that collects the money and gives the change. They are always under the age of 18 and sometimes they even look as young as 10 or 11. In Nepal child labour is defined as a child under the age of 16 who is employed in full-time work that interferes with basic health standards and education. Unfortunately the laws are not enforced, and it is within the culture to accept child labour. This is not to say that every child worker is abused, but it does give some incite as to who can and cannot have access to education here. It also makes me appreciate our education system much more (those who know me know what a critic of it I am…).
Lots of information today. Maybe I should have apologized in advance. Oooops heh heh. I will say this, I am definitely passionate about research. I hope, with whatever job I will end up with, it will include opportunities for evaluation and research. Until next post,