Community-based care in Nepal?

ChoraChori’s field team has rescued a child rape victim who was failed by family and community in east Nepal.

The 12 year old girl pictured left is from Phidim, the principal town of Panchthar District. Her miserable life stands in stark contrast to the dramatic natural beauty of Nepal’s most eastern District. She is homeless because, although her mother is alive and well, she is unwelcome at her step-father’s home. Therefore she has been wandering around the community, surviving by taking on domestic chores in return for food and shelter, her overnight accommodation being often nothing more than cow-sheds.

Panchthar lies within Nepal’s Province No 1, the Province with the highest rates of reported rape at 8.5 per 100,000 of population in the period July 17 to June 18. ChoraChori is currently analysing why this should be so, but in the meantime we are dealing with the consequences.

Tragically, this little girl became one of the statistics from last year. Her rapist has already been convicted and we will fight for him to remain in jail should this come to an appeal. But meantime we are working with the village authority to allow her transfer into our care in Kathmandu. She is of course severely traumatised by her experiences and we will need to manage the trauma as well as offer her a place of safety at our refuge.

So often we hear from respected authorities that children belong with families and communities. It’s not as easy as that in remote parts of Nepal and clearly in this case that arrangement has failed with such dire consequences; it is time for us to intervene and protect this child properly.

Next week you have an opportunity to do something to help this girl and the many others that ChoraChori has rescued. You can join me in making a donation towards our work through The Big Give Christmas Challenge through which all online donations will automatically be doubled in value. Please don’t donate now. If you leave us your e mail address here we will send you a reminder when the Appeal goes live.

Thank you.

Computers for Shree Ganesh School!

This week ChoraChori-UK visitor to Nepal, Caroline Milne, saw for herself the impact of fundraising that she has supported when she accompanied a special delivery of computers to a terribly under-resourced government school in Kathmandu valley.

How can a school teach computer science when it doesn’t have any computers?

This is not an unusual challenge in under-resourced government schools in Nepal. And it’s often girls that ultimately lose out as parents frequently choose to send their sons to private schools while their daughters make-do at the local government school. This is gender discrimination within families.

One such school has been Shree Ganesh School which is in a village on the edge of Kathmandu valley. It is attended by 147 students, 85 of them girls and 62 boys. Most of the children are from the low caste “Danuwar” community. The Danuwars once earned their living through fishing but the local river became polluted and these days they undertake unskilled labour work. It gets worse. Danuwars are generally considered “matwalli” a derogatory term for the caste that abuse alcohol. The principal of the school tells us that the parents drink all day and often give it to their children too.

This week ChoraChori has done what it can to level the educational playing field for Danuwar children of both sexes by delivering ten computers to the school. These will benefit around 70 children in Grades 6-8. Inspired by the delivery, the school committee is now planning to extend the curriculum to include Grades 9 and 10. This is a great result and we’re most thankful to Nexus International School in Singapore and to a UK Trust that has provided the funding.

To find out more click on the image!

The tea plantations of Jhapa District, southeast Nepal

In August 2018 a ChoraChori research team visited a tea plantation in Jhapa District, southeast Nepal, to see living and working conditions for themselves.

Just over two years ago Jesuit priest Fr Norbert (pictured left), requested us to help a group of girls in Tipling, Dhading District. The girls’ school had been destroyed in the 2015 earthquakes and we agreed to bring them to Kathmandu to complete their grades 11 and 12 while learning some income generation skills. That was the start of a programme that is ongoing. Since then Fr Norbert has been transferred from Tipling to Jhapa District in the southeast where he is teaching at the Moran Memorial School. It was set up by the Jesuits in 1999 to support the children of impoverished tea plantation workers. Last month Fr Norbert asked if we could admit a group of Jhapa girls – school drop-outs – to our income generation programme and seven of them start tailoring training this month following a short course in candle-making.

When he isn’t teaching “moral science” Fr Norbert is touring the tea estate, meeting with workers and their children, hearing their problems and helping them where he can. Yesterday we were privileged to join him as he did his rounds. He showed us the mud huts that provide only the most rudimentary of shelter in an area where there is no sanitation and open defecation remains common practice. The school is doing its best to educate the children but obviously the home environment is dreadful rendering home study almost impossible. Exam results are therefore only average and drop out rates are high.

We saw men and women (no children) plucking tea for which they receive $2 per day for an eight hour shift that yields 26kg of tea per person. The tea is weighed on a basic set of scales and from there taken to the nearby factory (which we also visited) where it is processed on the spot. Plucking tea is laborious but the workers are threatened by the impact of mechanisation. For we also saw a machine being operated that skims the tops of the tea bushes, albeit without the delicacy of the hand. Since their jobs are potentially on the line, the workers are in no position to complain about the pittance that they are paid.

Fr Norbert does the best that he can to jolly the workers along but the over-riding sentiment within the estates is one of hopelessness. The poverty is obvious but the misery is compounded by alcohol abuse and depression is widespread. Jhapa has the highest girl suicide rate of any District in Nepal.

ChoraChori is pleased to support Fr Norbert and the community by teaching skills for life to Jhapa girls at our training centre in Kathmandu. This will give them and their future families a chance to escape the cycle of poverty and de facto slavery.

A “creche” at the tea plantation in Jhapa

 

Theraplay in Nepal

With a vital training input from volunteer consultant Debbie Mintz, ChoraChori has started using theraplay as a powerful therapeutic tool at its child trauma management centre in Kathmandu.

In the past week ChoraChori has admitted a ninth victim of child rape to its child trauma management facility in Kathmandu. The task of therapeutic management of children who have experienced almost unbelievable horrors, including at Indian “children’s shelters”, is a daunting one. Our local staff are very highly trained but remain open to new therapeutic approaches that can help them meet the challenge of restoring children’s confidence in themselves and in humanity. Accordingly, we have been delighted to receive the very timely British volunteer consultant support of Debbie Mintz who has trained staff in the technique of theraplay.

Theraplay is a proactive, intensive, relationship-focused therapy, modelled on the natural patterns of early healthy interactions between parents and infant; the kind that lead to secure attachment and lifelong good mental health. Theraplay is uniquely suited to the treatment of complex trauma in children because the model focuses on developing a secure base, strong attachments, concrete guidance, support and nurturing. These are the foundations from which a child can utilise natural reparative mechanisms, address their traumatic history, and have a restorative experience.

Whilst theraplay treatment is often carried out with children and their parents, it is very suitable for use with children whose primary relationships have broken down. With an attuned therapist guiding the child sequentially through phases of treatment, safety and security are first established in the relationship, allowing trauma to be addressed directly, and finally allowing social reconnection with others. Theraplay functions to create a sense of safety for the child by anchoring them in a nurturing, safe, and structured relationship, thus addressing attachment concerns first. Once children establish a sense of feeling connected to one important other, the trauma work can proceed with greater ease since the emotional foundation is set.

The benefit has been immediate and dramatic. Debbie writes:

I have been in Nepal for almost two weeks now and my experiences have not necessarily met my expectations. Teaching the therapists here to use theraplay as a part of their therapeutic model was a pleasure and easier than I expected. They have a natural warmth, compassion and intuition that makes them ideally suited to the attachment-focused theraplay model. Beginning theraplay sessions with the children has been deeply moving and has not taken the course I expected at all. The usual curiosity that I see in children in the UK is very much present, but the natural resistance that often comes with it is not. I will have to think more about why this is, but my initial instinct is that these children are so desperate for safety and nurture that having found physical care and security with the dedicated staff at ChoraChori, they have almost been waiting for the engagement and nurture of theraplay. We have already seen remarkable results. Within the first week children unexpectedly and spontaneously shared previously undisclosed traumatic experiences of the most severe nature to their trusted therapists. This seems to have come much more speedily than expected on the safe foundations that the close and attuned interactions of theraplay have provided.

ChoraChori is making a very strong start into an area of childcare where few organisations and charities wish to venture; it is just too difficult, too harrowing and too demanding of a long term commitment. But alongside our partner Unity in Health we are laying the foundations of a therapeutic service that is so badly needed in Nepal given the scale of the problem that we need to address.

Supporting the girls from Jhapa

ChoraChori is providing skills training to a group of highly vulnerable girls from Jhapa District in southeast Nepal.

A Nepali Times article of July 2016 described how Nepal at that time had the seventh highest suicide rate in the world and the third highest rate of girl suicide. And the District with the highest suicide rate was Jhapa in the southeast, with an annual rate of 31 per 100,000 compared to the national average of 24.9 per 100,000.

A number of factors contribute to these dreadful figures including inward migration, natural disasters (floods), gender discrimination, grinding poverty and lack of employment prospects. One of Jhapa District’s major sources of employment is the tea plantations and these pay the women workers an absolute pittance for back-breaking labour. Another key factor is alcohol and drug abuse that, according to another Nepali Times article from June this year, makes Jhapa also a hotspot for sexual abuse and child rape. Alongside assisting child rape victims and supporting prosecution of offenders, ChoraChori will also be extending assistance to vulnerable girls in Jhapa and other Districts.

This week we admitted seven Jhapa girls (school drop-outs) to our refuge/training centre in Kathmandu. British (volunteer) consultant David Mintz is training them in candle-making skills appropriate to the Western market. The girls will also receive six months’ worth of tailoring training, life and language skills before they return to Jhapa each with their own sewing machine. It’s a small initial step but a significant one.

On Monday the girls were very excited to meet their first-ever foreigners, Beverley and Philip Holmes, the Founders of ChoraChori. And then, like London buses, David arrived on the scene two days later….

SEE (SLC) examination success

Alongside our child rescue and rehabilitation work in Nepal, ChoraChori also provides material and educational support to some very poor girls within the local community. One such girl, Rina, has responded by achieving a remarkable result in the latest Secondary Education Examination (SEE).

In late 2014 ChoraChori-Nepal’s Founder and Operational Director, Shailaja CM, found these two sisters wandering destitute in the Godawari hills to the southeast of Kathmandu valley. Their alcoholic father was living in a shack (see feature image) and their stepmother had thrown them out. At Shailaja’s request we took the two girls into our care and paid for their education at the nearby Kitini School, one of the best state schools in Nepal. The cost of this was subsequently picked up by our friends at The Soroptimist International on Devon – Taranaki Club in New Zealand.

The elder of the two sisters, Rina (name changed), has just achieved a remarkable success in the Secondary Education Examination (SEE), the Grade 10 examination that up until recently was known as the School Leaving Certificate (SLC). Her “A” grade means that she has scored between 80% and 90% – which is interpreted as “Excellent” – putting Rina within the top third of students who sat the examination. This should be interpreted against the sad backdrop of the number of children who drop out of school before Grade 10 due to extreme poverty or poor schooling opportunities while others are not permitted to write the examination if they are considered likely to fail.

Rina is now moving on to Grade 11 – “Plus Two” – at Kitini College where she has chosen management as her academic stream for the next two years. While staying at the ChoraChori refuge she will supplement her academic education with training in the arts and crafts.

 

 

No justice for child rape victims in Nepal – quite the opposite

Child rape victim betrayed in Nepal

After she was raped Radhika (name changed) sought support from village elders. It is hard to comprehend the decision that the elders took, supporting the rapist rather than the victim.

At the end of last month 15 year old Radhika felt very happy as she was returning home from a marriage ceremony. It had been a lovely celebration. In life, she had a great deal to look forward to, having just completed her grade 10 examinations. But as she was about to enter her house she was grabbed by a man who dragged her off to a nearby field. Stifling her cries for help with her shawl, he raped her three times.  No one heard the commotion as others had gone to the wedding too. It was only when Radhika’s eleven year old brother came looking for her that her assailant ran off. Radhika’s parents were away at the time as her mother was having an operation. So for five days she didn’t have their support and was too frightened to tell anyone what had happened. Eventually she confided in an aunt.

After his return, the girl’s father appealed for justice to the all-male “panchayat“, the village assembly. After three days the panchayat ruled unanimously that Radhika should marry her attacker. The committee members reasoned that there was no alternative as no one else would want to marry a rape victim and, conveniently, both victim and assailant were single. Worse still, Radhika’s father would have to pay her attacker a dowry of 300,000 rupees (£2,000), negotiated down by her father from an original suggestion of 500,000 rupees. The father felt that he had no alternative but to comply with the ruling for fear of being thrown out of the village.

Radhika’s family are not well-off – her father sells cosmetics from a roadside stall. He asked his neighbours for a loan but few would help him. In the end he had to sell his land to raise the dowry. A date of 12th May was set for the wedding with the father due to pay the rapist four days beforehand. However when he went to the rapist’s home he found that both he and his father had gone missing. At this point he did what he should have done in the first place and went to the police, filing a formal complaint against his daughter’s attacker. He also contacted the local media, telling them “I have been belittled by everyone because I am poor. They didn’t allow me to make decisions and I had to agree to what they said. But now I will not tolerate this and I will fight for my daughter’s rights. I need everyone’s help in this.”

In this case, “everyone” has included ChoraChori in Nepal. As it is too dangerous for Radhika to remain in her own village (witnesses to crime can go missing), we have admitted her to our refuge in Kathmandu where she is receiving support through our child trauma management centre. We will do all that we can to track down her assailant and bring him to justice. The panchayat has realised its mistake in that it should not have ruled on a criminal case and has promised to support us in finding the attacker. Meantime Radhika can stay with us for as long as is necessary and we will ensure that she has a chance to complete her education.

Radhika is the third child rape victim that we have admitted to our refuge in the past three weeks. We are investigating the circumstances of nine other cases, one of whom is an eight month old baby. Last week a ChoraChori field team successfully disrupted a child marriage ceremony that was being rushed through with an £800 dowry. And the next day directed the police to arrest another child rapist who had returned from India, thinking it was safe to do so.

If you would like to join us in helping Radhika and her family, please donate using the button below – and share. Thank you.

donate to ChoraChori

 

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.

 

ChoraChori’s schools’ projects for 2018

Support to schools is a key element of ChoraChori’s work in Nepal. This will continue to be the case this year as we reach out to new schools in Kathmandu valley and beyond!

Historically we have rebuilt primary schools that were destroyed in the 2015 earthquakes and supported Kitini College, one of the best state secondary schools in Nepal. This year we plan capital projects at Shree Buddha and Shree Ganesh Secondary Schools in Kathmandu valley and at Indreni Secondary School which lies in Panchthar District, east Nepal.

Shree Buddha Secondary School has an attendance of 350 pupils and lies in a rural village in Lele, Lalitpur District, close to Kathmandu. The village has no piped water supply and the villagers and students rely on river water. Recently this water has turned muddy because of contamination from nearby brick kiln factories. To make matters worse there are no toilets in the school and children use the bank of the river for open defecation. Bodies are even cremated on the opposite river bank. With Kathmandu valley already prone to cholera outbreaks (as a result of faecal contamination of water supplies) this is a disaster waiting to happen. Also, the lack of toilets is given as a major reason for girls dropping out of school after they reach puberty or for non-attendance during menstruation. Accordingly, the Principal of the school has asked if we can help with the construction of boys’ and girls’ toilets, the installation of water tanks and a water purifier. See the film above to find out more.

Shree Ganesh secondary school is attended by 147 pupils and also lies in an outlying village in Kathmandu valley. Most of the students come from the highly marginalised Danuwar community. The majority of the students are girls (85 girls vs 62 boys). This is a reflection of parental discrimination in that they choose to invest what money they have in their sons by sending them to better resourced private schools. So, their daughters have to attend Shree Ganesh school which, for example, teaches computing even though it has only two functioning antiquated computers. This kind of under-resourcing is scandalous, but by no means unusual in Nepal government schools. We would like to redress the educational imbalance by providing the school with 10 new computers that will allow the set up of a computer laboratory and the transformation of the students’ options.

The third school is Indreni Secondary School which lies in Panchthar District, in east Nepal (pictured above). It has 478 students in Grades 1-12 and, once again, the vast majority of pupils are girls (298 girls vs 180 boys). Seventy percent of students are from the scheduled “janajati” castes, including a large proportion of Dalit children (“untouchables”). As per Shree Ganesh School, there are no computer facilities and we would like to set up a computer laboratory with 10 new computers.

These developments will cost us £12,546 and we already have £2,500 in place thanks to our friends at Hatemalo. If you’d like to help us level the educational playing field for boys and girls in Nepal then please support us through the button below.donate to ChoraChori

A key role for ChoraChori in fighting violence against girls in Nepal

Fighting violence against girls in Nepal

As concerns grow internationally about the unseen violence and abuse of girls and women, ChoraChori will play a key role in fighting such violence against girls in Nepal, bringing support to the victims and justice to the perpetrators.

The statistics on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in Nepal are truly shocking. The Nepal Demographic Health Survey 2016 found that 23% of women had been subject to physical, emotional or sexual violence with 7% having experienced sexual violence. So often this goes unreported for fear of stigma or through lack of support services. For those who do seek help the vast majority turn to family (65%) followed by neighbours (31%) and friends (22%). Only 8% ask help from the police and 2% from social welfare organisations. In areas such as Tipling, where we operate, violence and abduction against girls seems to be treated as a social norm.

The Government of Nepal has made some effort to address the problem of GBV. In 2010 the Ministry of Health and Population in coordination with the Ministry of Women set up hospital based “One-stop Crisis Management Centres” (OCMCs) which now exist in 21 Districts. Through trained staff these were designed to provide 24 hour support to victims of GBV, including psychosocial counselling, coordination with the police, legal services and support from community based organisations. The latter can include access to refuge facilities – at least in theory. But how successful is this in practice?

In an earlier post we told how ChoraChori had become involved in fighting a case of attempted rape on behalf of the victim. This case has now featured in a major report in this week’s Nepali Times. Excellent as that report has been it doesn’t tell the full story. For when the CEO of ChoraChori arrived at the scene he found the office of the OCMC in Dhading locked up. It was a public holiday so he took upon himself the task of finding a lawyer who could support the girl and ensure that the case was filed.

Most shocking of all was the conduct of the police themselves. The victim was seen by a female police officer but was then subject to repeated questioning from male officers. This was intimidating and demeaning for a 14 year old girl whose first language is Tamang rather than Nepali. She was asked questions that seemed to be more for the titillation of the police rather than anything else. Was the rape attempted on a bed or on the floor? Then she was examined by a male doctor who asked her questions in front of her alleged assailant. Small wonder that such a small percentage of female victims report incidents to the police or support services.

ChoraChori will continue to pursue this case. The victim will remain in our protection until the case comes to court and beyond. But, to our disgust, the alleged assailant has been released on bail which could allow him to attempt to influence the girl’s family towards dropping charges. We will be petitioning for him to be remanded in custody. And we have written to the international aid organisation of which his NGO was an implementing partner to let them know what has happened. They too need to be applying pressure to ensure that there is no attempt at cover-up and that the police are encouraged to be rigorous in their enquiries.

ChoraChori will also be appointing a new (female) Child Protection Officer who can be available at a moment’s notice for similar cases in the future. We will ask her to go to the scene of future assaults and liaise with the local authorities – including OCMCs, the police and District Child Welfare Committees – so that cases are filed. Moreover she will build links with government bodies and the police in Kathmandu to ensure that proper procedures are followed and that there is no impunity for perpetrators of GBV, including sexual assault.

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