ChoraChori rescues 11 Nepali children from India

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Shailaja CM, the Operational Director of ChoraChori in Nepal, looks tired as she arrives at our Kathmandu refuge from her latest child rescue operation to India. These seven new children that she has retrieved brings the number of children that ChoraChori has rescued from India to 118.

This past week has been a very busy one for ChoraChori with 11 new children joining our refuge in Kathmandu.

The week began with our friends at ChildLine India in Gorakhpur bringing four displaced Nepali boys directly to our refuge in Kathmandu. Two of the boys have spent three years in India, one of them passing through three children’s shelters in that time. After they had settled in, our rescue team went to Bihar to retrieve some more children leaving refuge staff to care for the first four and begin the process of tracing their families. This has led to an early success with one of the four boys, who suffers from quite severe autism, being reunited. His father was very happy to accept him back; this is not always the case with disabled children.

The rescue team went to two centres in Bihar, north India, Chapra and Muzaffarpur. At Chapra they were able to secure the release of four more boys, three of whom are pictured above. Often children run away from family poverty, seeking a better life in India, but this does not seem to have been the case with these boys. One boy’s father owns two houses. It seems that these children almost left home on a whim or to get away from school. In any case, prospects for family reunification look very good. Another boy’s uncle had gone to Chapra previously to try and get his nephew and been turned away. It helps the process immensely when families show such prior motivation to find their children.

At Muzaffarpur Shailaja and her colleague, Anila, finally brought three Nepali girls to freedom. It has taken months of negotiation and three visits to achieve this result, overcoming what seemed at times like insurmountable bureaucracy. One of the girls is six years old and has spent three years in Indian children’s shelters. She fled to India with her older brother to escape an abusive stepfather. Her actual father was in prison for murder and this may still be his situation. Clearly cases such as this require more time and effort but these new refuge children are all in the best of care now.

We are very grateful to all those supporters who donated to us in The Big Give Christmas Challenge and in doing so have allowed this vital work to go forward.

A man amongst mushrooms

Growing mushrooms at our Kathmandu refuge

The boys and girls at our Kathmandu refuge have been getting their hands dirty recently as we have embarked upon a new income generation activity: mushroom cultivation!

Mushrooms are grown quite widely in Nepal. They are a high value crop that can grow in areas where the land quality – or total absence of soil – prevents other forms of agricultural production.

Supported by ChoraChori-UK visitors Ben and Toby (isn’t that a type of ice cream?), the girls have been learning how to grow oyster mushrooms. The technique involves soaking and sterilising straw before converting this into balls that are inoculated with the mushroom spawn. All you need then is a dark space, modest watering and patience for two or three weeks to allow the first of three yields to appear.

Two small unused sheds at the refuge have been rodent-proofed for the first 80 mushroom balls. A piece of adjacent land has been cleared and levelled for a third shed that will be made from bamboo. As you can see the first attempt has been a great success with plenty of mushrooms growing that can help feed the refuge children with a surplus available for sale. The Tipling girls now have yet another skill to take back to their village after they have completed their education!

 

ChoraChori supports child rape victim

ChoraChori supports child rape victim

ChoraChori has admitted a victim of child rape to our child trauma management centre in Kathmandu. We will support this child and her family, while making every effort to bring her assailant to justice.

Last evening 12 year old Anita (not her real name) and her family came to our trauma centre along with her parents and social activist Sabitri Subedi. In recent weeks we have been working closely with Sabitri as she fights for the rights of girls who have been victim of sexual violence on Nepal’s southern plains. Anita, who comes from a village in Sarlahi District (circled) is one such victim; she was raped last weekend. The scenario is all too familiar as child rape is very common in remote areas of Nepal. Often the assailant is a family member but on this occasion the alleged assailant is a very wealthy and influential man within the District.

Anita comes from a Dalit (“untouchable”) family who speak only Maithili, the language of an ethnic community that lives in Sarlahi and in Bihar, north India. The family is very poor with the father working away from home as a rickshaw driver in Birgunj. Last Sunday evening her mother travelled to Birgunj to meet her husband while Anita remained at home with her brother. In what appears to have been a premeditated attack, a friend of the accused called at Anita’s home and invited her brother to go for a short walk. As soon as they were gone the alleged assailant abducted Anita and raped her in a nearby field. Anita fainted. After she recovered consciousness she made her way back to her hut, bleeding profusely. When her brother returned to find his sister covered in blood he immediately called their parents who rushed back to the village, arriving on Monday morning. They filed a complaint at the local police station and then took Anita to a local health post for treatment as she was still bleeding.

The accused is also a Dalit, however he is rich and powerful man in the District. He has been missing since the incident. On returning to the village with their daughter locals tried to convince the family to drop the case and accept a large settlement (50 lakh rupees – £33k), however Anita’s father was adamant that they would not accept the money. Local politicians and villagers then began to put pressure on the family to resolve the issue through a local panchayat (assembly), arguing that it should be resolved within the village and that it would not help the family if news of the case spread further afield.

After reaching the village Sabitri spoke to the family and was approached by the police, officials and villagers who, on assuming that she was a representative of an NGO in Kathmandu, proceeded to offer her 5 lakh (£3k) if she could convince the family to accept the ‘compensation’ and drop the case. Sabitri felt that under these circumstances it would be impossible for the family to get legal justice from the village. The family were also feeling very threatened and vulnerable as the village is very isolated, being 5 kilometres walk from the nearest town. Therefore she decided that it would be best for Anita and her family if they were to leave the village in secret. They did so yesterday morning and arrived at our centre in the evening.

Today ChoraChori will be approaching police headquarters in Kathmandu to explain the situation and file a formal complaint. In our experience the police in Kathmandu are much better at prosecuting cases properly. The assailant – and his accomplice – cannot be allowed to escape justice through bribery, informal “settlement” and cover up. Meantime we will provide Anita with all the professional support she needs at our residential centre, through our staff psychosocial counsellor, Sailu Rajbhandari.

 

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