A new partner organisation for ChoraChori

ChoraChori is very pleased to announce that we have joined hands with a second Nepalese NGO partner, the Mithila Wildlife Trust.

In a blog post last December, we stated our intention to extend our work in support of the victims of child rape into Dhanusha, south Nepal. That remains our goal however, following a visit to the District earlier this month, we reached the conclusion that we would have to approach the challenge in a more measured way that we had envisaged. The Musahar and Dom communities are very closed castes and cautious of outsiders, including Nepali people. This is hardly surprising, considering some of the injustices that have been visited upon them in the past. First, we have to build confidence by making a tangible difference to the people and specifically to the well-being of the women and children.

On our visit we were joined by Maya Rai of the Kathmandu-based Nepal Knotcraft Centre who introduced us to women from the villages and who demonstrated their existing basket-weaving techniques. Maya’s company is keen that we train these talented women in modern techniques and contemporary designs, using natural fibres that are available locally. This will give excellent employment possibilities and community upliftment

Our other host was Dev Narayan Mandal who is a keen conservationist and the Founder of the Mithila Wildlife Trust. Dev is a local man who spent nine years in India before resolving to return to his home area and help the community which relies on the nearby forest for so much of its welfare. Sadly, that forest has been severely damaged by illegal logging but, through his Trust, this can be restored. Dev also explained the need for education to break the village poverty that has been such a central factor in child marriage. The (illegal) dowry system is being sustained in large part because the younger the girl at the time of marriage, the lower the dowry payment. Although the legal age for marriage in Nepal is 20, girls from this community were marrying between the ages of 12 and 16. Education offers the only way out.

In response we have agreed to fund the construction of a study facility that will support over 200 children outside of school hours, improving school retention rates. This will cost £9,500 and that sum has been kindly gifted by major donors in the UK. We have also provided £1,600 towards setting up a low-cost training space for the women, this through our “Empowering Girls in Nepal” collaboration with SIGBI. Both facilities should be constructed within three months and in good time before this year’s monsoon season.

This is just the first step in what is sure to be a productive and rewarding partnership!

ChoraChori returns first group of rescued Nepalese children to their families

ChoraChori conducts medical checks on rescued Nepalese children at its Kathmandu refugeRescued Nepalese children returned to families

On the 17th March 2017 ChoraChori brought 33 trafficked and displaced Nepalese children back to Nepal. See this link. Working in conjunction with Nepal’s Central Child Welfare Board, we freed them from captivity in dreadful conditions at two children’s shelters in Bihar, north India. Since then we have been conducting basic medical checks on the children and, where necessary, providing essential medical care. We’ve also been finding out more about the children’s circumstances and how they ended up in India. And this past week we’ve successfully reunited the first nine of the returnees with their families.

Nepal’s Musahar community – the rat-catchers

These first nine children are from the Musahar caste. This word means “rat-catcher” or “rat-eater”. This caste lies within the “untouchable” community and the Musahar population straddles the border between India and Nepal. See this description of the Indian Musahar from Wikipedia. The 2014 Nepal census records 234,490 Musahar as living in Nepal. Their name stems from the belief that the people were so poor that they caught rats for food. That may not longer be the case but the Musahar still lead tough lives and experience terrible discrimination. As untouchables they are kept at the margins of society and may not share the same space as higher caste people. They undertake the most menial work and that includes, like their Bihari counterparts, going to north Indian States to find agricultural labour.

Caught in a trap

The nine children we returned to their homes in Siraha District told us of how, ironically, Musahar children find themselves in a trap. They have to attend separate schools, segregated from other children. Their school offered classes only up to the 5th grade. Further education would have involved transfer to a mixed caste school and that wasn’t allowed. So in desperation the children set off as a group to work  in a pizza shop in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Relatives who were working there already promised them a salary of 5,000 Indian rupees (£60) per month. The children left home with their parents’ permission but en route the Indian police intercepted them. The authorities placed them in Darbhanga children’s shelter where ChoraChori eventually rescued them.

Now these reunited children have no interest in education – it’s not available anyway. Instead they want to find work in Nepal or, when they are older, as migrant labour in the Middle East. One of the nine even wants to return to India once his citizenship papers are complete.  However bleak their prospects in life might be, at least these Nepalese children have the chance of a fresh start after their appalling experience as captives at Darbhanga children’s shelter.

Child trafficking

We are still researching the circumstances of the other rescued Nepalese children. Already there seems to be a significant child trafficking element involved. For obvious reasons we’ll not share anything on this while our investigations are underway. Also, two children are runaways from a Buddhist monastery in south India. They allege that they were being thrashed by the monks. This is not the first time that we have come across this allegation arising from a most unlikely place and this too requires our further research.

ChoraChori in the Nepali Times

Nepalese children captiveYesterday the Nepali Times published a powerful report on our joint operation with the Central Child Welfare Board. You can read this article and view the associated film by clicking on the image to the left.

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