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!

 

Teaching crafts to girls from Tipling

Alongside supporting girls from Tipling, near the Tibet border (pictured left), ChoraChori has been teaching them crafts that lead to an income.

Our programme in support of the trafficking-prone girls from Tipling, Dhading District, began soon after the 2015 earthquakes. These destroyed just about all of the homes and schools in the area. Our short-term response was to bring a group of girls to Kathmandu where they could complete their higher secondary education at Kitini College while staying at our Kathmandu refuge. In parallel, last year we trained them in crafts, beginning with working in felt.

Then in October a Dutch business woman, Aagje Hoekstra, began a short voluntary consultancy with us, teaching the girls how to make eye-catching carrier bags out of old rice and lentil sacks. This has been a huge success with their products already finding a good market in Holland and Germany. See the film on the left.

As the first group of girls is due to complete their higher secondary education in May we are now thinking ahead to the next steps. Reena, who features in the film, and two other girls want to train to become community medical assistants so that they can return to Tipling and help the village and surrounding area. The training is expensive with the 18 month course costing £3,000 (including the girls’ keep). But that is the price of training leaders as well as CMAs. We are actively seeking sponsors who can help with defraying these costs.

Once again we are grateful to the Soroptimist International President’s Appeal 2015-17 for their funding thus far under their Educate to Lead programme. And of course to Aagje for her incredible personal contribution in time, skill and passion.

 

 

Attempted rape in Tipling

ChoraChori-Nepal has intervened in a case of attempted rape in Tipling, Dhading District, ensuring that the police filed a case against the girl’s attacker. 

Since June 2016 ChoraChori has been supporting the education of girls from Tipling, which lies close to the Tibet border in Dhading District. This had been the scene of widespread devastation after the 2015 earthquakes. In spite of passing the challenging Grade 10 School Leaver’s Certificate (SLC) exams girls from this community could take their education no further. For them, the nearest school was three hours’ walk away. So we gave these motivated girls a chance to complete Grades 11 and 12 by bringing the to our Kathmandu refuge and enrolling them at the nearby excellent state school, Kitini College. At the end of last year we added a string to their bow by teaching them craft skills. As well as excelling at school the girls have been earning money by selling their craft products in Holland and Germany.

This has been particularly gratifying as the girls – who are mainly from the marginalised Tamang ethnic community – were very vulnerable even before the earthquakes. It is common practice for girls to be abducted by aspiring husbands (this can lead to rape) who then subsequently arrange a “marriage” with the girl’s family. One of the girls whom we brought down to Kathmandu had run away from this scenario three times. And of course, in that area there wasn’t much law enforcement, least of all after the earthquakes.

ChoraChori-Nepal CEO Bhaskar Karki meeting with Parbati’s family

On Sunday Bhaskar Karki, ChoraChori-Nepal CEO (pictured left) took a call from a Catholic priest in Tipling asking for ChoraChori-Nepal support. A 35 year old NGO worker had allegedly attempted to rape a partially sighted 14 year old Tamang girl, Parbati (name changed) who had been orphaned five years ago. She has 5 or 6 older siblings and been staying with her 22 year old brother. He is away most days working as a porter. The assailant – who had allegedly previously molested both Parbati and her older sister – allegedly seized Parbati during a visit to her home last Saturday after finding her alone. She told us how she fought him off with a kick to the crotch and hit him with a kettle before screaming for help. Local villagers caught the man and took him to Dhading police station. Parbati is a feisty girl and was determined to bring him to book by giving evidence against him. The situation at the police station became very tense with the assailant’s friends turning up in an attempt to intimidate the police and influence them so that a case would not be registered. They argued that what had happened was normal practice in Tipling area.

Bhaskar downed tools straight away and went with one of our field staff, Pratap Titung, to support Parbati. In spite of yesterday being a public holiday, they managed to find a lawyer who has been interviewing the girl and her family. Today the police filed the case against the man. It remains to be seen if he is remanded in custody or gets bail. Parbati is going to remain with her family for now but she is likely to join our programme when the next group of new students comes to the refuge.

For sure, whatever the outcome of the case, we have already helped send out a powerful message that young men in the mountains of Dhading are not above the law and rape is rape. A message that is being echoed around the world these days, including in Hollywood.

 

Something for the tooth fairy…

ChoraChori trains vulnerable Nepalese girls how to make unique felt products

In a previous blog post we explained how earlier this year British volunteer Alice Alderson supported our “Tipling girls” through training them in cutting and sewing techniques. This work has matured into a final product that is now ready to go under the pillow – a felt heart for the tooth fairy!

A great idea

So here it is: a hand-stitched felt heart that has a little pocket, containing a note with the name of the girl who made it. The felt heart comes in a transparent mesh bag that also contains an information card about the charity and three blank notes (two as spares) for the child to write a personal message to the fairy. The bag is then sealed with a tie label. All the design work has been done by Alice. So after a few months of hard work by our girls and volunteers it’s now over to the tooth-fairy. And to you! We are offering these distinctive Christmas stocking fillers at £4.50 each. 100% of the profit goes to ChoraChori. There is a minimum order of five with an additional £2.50 to cover postage and packing for European sales only. To place an order just drop me a line.

We are very grateful to The Soroptimists International President’s Appeal 2015-2017 “Educate to Lead” whose generous grant funding has funded this project within our broader programme of educational and training support to vulnerable girls in Nepal. Also to UK supporter Clare Hilder for the original idea!

Felt product from Nepal

Handicrafts training brings opportunity to Nepali girls

Opportunity for Nepali girls

Handicrafts training is being developed by ChoraChori to improve options for a group of disadvantaged Nepali girls.

BackgroundHandicrafts training for Nepali girls

In an earlier post we described the challenges faced by girls from the Tipling area, close to the Tibet border. The 2015 earthquakes made the region’s grinding poverty even worse; all its buildings were destroyed. So in July 2016 ChoraChori intervened to bring a group of 10 girls to Kathmandu to allow them to complete their education. We selected these ten because they had shown the commitment to successfully complete their Grade 10 examinations. There was no possibility of going beyond that in Tipling as the nearest school that was still standing was three hours’ walk away from their village.

Recent developments, handicrafts plans

ChoraChori has followed up on this initiative by admitting a further nine girls to the programme in June. This (and future plans) became possible only through the generous financial support of the Soroptimist International President’s Appeal 2015-2017, “Educate to Lead”. Not only will this vital funding be providing full academic support to the girls but it will also train them in handicrafts through inputs from Western visitors who know the overseas market. October programme visitors Lara Hilder and Ben Harvey will build upon the product development initiated by Alice Alderson in January. Lara has a degree in textile design while Ben has a degree in womenswear design and technology. They will be followed by Dutch visitor Aagje Hoekstra who has a Bachelor’s in product design. Exciting times indeed!

Inspiration for one beneficiary

One Tamang girl said to us:

“My mother passed away when I was just seven days old. My father re-married within a month and abandoned me. After that my aunt raised me until I was 12 years old. When I turned 13, I came to Kathmandu to study. I was excited to be independent and live the city life. My dreams shattered when I couldn’t afford my studies in Kathmandu and my father didn’t support me financially. With a heavy heart, I went back to my village and re-joined my old school.

After 10th Grade, when I learnt that ChoraChori is helping us to come to Kathmandu to study, I was excited but nervous at the same time. I was scared that I might not be able to afford to live in Kathmandu like before. Especially since after the earthquake we didn’t have any money as our house had collapsed. Initially I was very anxious but I as joined High School and met ChoraChori staff I breathed a sigh of relief. I still can’t believe that I am being helped to this extent to fulfil my dreams. I am glad that I have received an opportunity like this to study and also get involved in training programmes. 

When I finish my studies I want to become a teacher and go back to my village so that no girls and boys are deprived of education. If I stay in the city, I want to be like the staff members of ChoraChori-Nepal and help others.”

An escape from the prospect of abduction

And a girl from the Ghale community said:

“I remember one terrifying event when a friend was married to her maternal uncle’s son. In our culture marriage by abduction is very common. If the boy likes the girl, he comes and kidnaps her and that’s how they are married. My friend didn’t like her husband at all. But a girl’s consent doesn’t matter and she is forced to live with him forever. Well, that is how my mother was married to my father too but thankfully they are happy now.

Hadn’t ChoraChori helped me come to Kathmandu and study, I would have faced the same fate as my friend. I would have been forcefully married and never gotten a change to go to school again. No one would listen to me when I tried to tell them that I wanted to study further. I am very grateful to be receiving this opportunity. Right now, I feel that the training that I am getting with other girls will be very useful in future and that it’s helping to empower us. I see a great prospect for my future because I want to be a designer after I complete my studies.” 

Can you help?

If you think you might be able to help our wonderful handicrafts programme in any way, please do drop me a line. Donations, as ever, very welcome through the button below.

donate to ChoraChori

Nepali girl abduction

Nepali girl abduction a common crime

Nepali girl abduction is commonplace – indeed socially accepted – in some rural communities in Nepal. The UK’s Daily Mail reported on this two years ago, describing how it impacted upon Dalit (“untouchable”) girls in remote northwest Nepal. Young men abducted these girls to force them into child marriage while girls’ families offered little resistance. See this article.  We’ve come across the same practice further to the east in Tipling, Dhading District, which lies in the mountains bordering Tibet. In the midst of stunning scenery (see picture above) young men commit crimes against girls, robbing them of their childhoods and futures.

Tipling – a tough place for girls

It takes two days’ travel from Kathmandu to reach Tipling, its remoteness contributing to endemic grinding poverty. This is home to the people from the marginalised and historically downtrodden Tamang community. Family incomes are derived from subsistence farming, manual labour and from acting as porters. Women’s lives are particularly difficult with a high incidence of child marriage and early pregnancy. These are major contributing factors towards infant and maternal mortality. Families often can’t afford to educate their children. If they can, they will prioritise their sons’ schooling and send them to private boarding schools in large towns. Girls can only expect to attend local government schools that are chronically under-resourced. Eventually poverty forces many girls to drop out of school early to begin work. Or they may be forced into child marriage even though this is illegal in Nepal.

The thing is that there’s little protection for girls. There is no police post in the area; the nearest one is a day’s walk away. And often parents can be away from home, tending cattle in lowland pastures. So it’s easy for a young man or young men to kidnap a girl and claim her as a wife.

Abduction of two sisters

A young man kidnapped 22 year old Mara when her father was away from home working as a herdsman. Mara ran away from her captor four times before he turned up at her parents’ home. He offered alcohol as a goodwill gesture to the family and to obtain her father’s blessing. The family agreed and Mara’s fate was sealed. Later, another lad and some friends snatched Mara’s younger sister, Nanimaya. She escaped five times but each time her abductor went to her home to retrieve her with the family’s consent. After the sixth escape the young man gave up. But, bizarrely, he claimed £4 equivalent from Nanimaya’s father as “compensation” for the “divorce”.

In our society we’d quite correctly view these practices as kidnap and rape. Not necessarily so in rural Nepal and even if there is a police presence, they turn a blind eye to these crimes for fear of upsetting complicit villagers.

The ChoraChori Tipling Girls Project

Girls from Tipling learning craft skillsMara and Nanimaya’s youngest sister is one of ten girls who came to Kathmandu last July. ChoraChori responded to a request from a Jesuit priest in Tipling, Fr Norbert, that we give these girls a chance to complete their education in Kathmandu. For they had successfully passed the coveted Grade 10 School Leaver’s Certificate (SLC) examination at their school in Tipling. This was a remarkable achievement in spite of the 2015 earthquakes that had destroyed their homes. There was no option to complete higher secondary education (Grades 11 and 12) in Tipling. Moreover, lawlessness had become much worse after the quakes and these girls were very susceptible to abduction, child marriage or even human trafficking. Tamang girls are physically attractive and therefore highly sought-after for the sex trade.

The Tipling girls are now staying at ChoraChori Operational Director Shailaja’s home. In the mornings they attend college while in the afternoons we have been teaching them handicrafts. Soon we plan to extend their extra-curricular activities to English lessons. These will increase their future employability. And in June we expect a further ten or so girls to join the two year programme. A programme that will give these young women a chance of making something of their lives while providing essential protection from kidnappers.

To support this project and help us fight Nepali girl abduction please donate using the button below:

donate to ChoraChori

 

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