Read Nepalese teenagers history
The story of Urmila Chaudhary : Sold for a couple of rupees
I was having dinner with my family and I couldn't speak because I had screamed all day. It was my first day in freedom after almost twelve years as a Kamlari - as a child slave in Nepal.
I was six when my family sold me. I am the youngest of seven children. My two older sisters were Kamlari too. The term translated means "hard working woman". Sending the little girls away to work is a tradition in my culture, with the Tharu ethnic group. A tradition that has been illegal since 2013.
I grew up in the Terai, a lowland plain in the southwest of the country. My family was poor, we are still today. We belong to one of the lowest castes and were treated similarly to the “untouchables”. The government passed a law back in the 1960s banning caste discrimination. But people from higher social classes are only polite on the outside.
For the New Year celebrations in January, men always came to our village of Manpur to take girls with them. Sometimes it was the landlords themselves, sometimes they sent middlemen, so it was with me.
My father was sick, we needed money for the medication. The middleman promised my parents that I would not only work but also go to school. A lie. My parents asked few questions, partly because they did not understand the language of the man from the distant capital. He gave them a few thousand rupees, about 25 euros. My wages for a year.
When it was time to leave, I sat with my sister, admired her nail polish and asked her what to expect. She also worked as a Kamlari and was only home for a brief visit. She explained to me that I had to clean, cook, wash and look after the children. “If the host hits you, don't say anything. If he orders you to do something, do it without objection. They are rich people and you work for them. "
"New shoes should make it easier to say goodbye"
I didn't want to go with the dealer. My brother bought me new shoes to make it easier for me to say goodbye. I put them in a plastic bag with the rest of my clothes, they should stay clean.
The dealer took six other girls with him. I was the youngest. We had to cross a river. But I was too small and the water too high. My brother accompanied me for a few hours and carried me across the river. In parting he lays his forehead on mine. I don't remember whether I cried.
When I arrived in Kathmandu it was already night. I couldn't see anything, but I was sure that everything was big and beautiful and that there was money in the street. The house where I was to work as a maid for the next eight years impressed me. There was glass in the windows and they use a stove - at home we cooked over an open fire. I had to stand on a chair to reach the stove.
It wasn't just the stove that was new to me. The big city overwhelmed me. There were electric lights, televisions, newspapers, and most importantly, cars. The hosts sent me to a shop in Kathmandu to get milk on the first day.
What kind of strange vehicles were those on the road? At some point I sat on the edge and counted them. When I wanted to go on, all of a sudden the milk was gone, street dogs had stolen it. The home side were angry, I think. They talked upset, but I couldn't understand their language.
I slept in a room with my grandmother. You in bed, me on a mat on the floor. Sometimes I couldn't sleep at all because I was busy fetching water all night. There was no running water and only one public fountain in each part of the city.
"She locked me in the house all day"
The lines were long and the water pressure was low. It took forever to fill a canister. After that I couldn't rest because I had to prepare breakfast every morning - tea and chapati, flatbread - and take the children to school, even though I was about the same age when I was six.
I put them on, packed their backpacks and carried them to school. Then I cleaned the house and did laundry. My hands were often swollen and sting, especially at night. In winter it is cold in Kathmandu, and in the fine houses you cannot light a fire in the middle of the room and sleep around it like we did in the village.
Sometimes I asked the landlord if I could go to school. He yelled at me, “Then who's doing the work here? You are not our child, you are our housemaid. ”In all these years I was only allowed to go home twice for a few hours. After two years, he stopped paying my family wages. Allegedly he wanted to give me the money, but I never got any.
It wasn't a nice life there, but it was better than what awaited me afterwards. After eight years they sent me to an aunt. They didn't tell my family about it. When my brother found out the phone number at some point, she denied me. For a long time my family thought I had disappeared.
My new boss was a politician and part of the royal family. She locked me in the house all day. Three locked doors and a wall. My prison. She also humiliated me mentally, told me that the police would be waiting in front of the door in case I wanted to run away. I had to sleep in a corner of the living room.
Before that I had at least people to talk to, the children, the grandmother. My new boss lived alone and had guests all the time, but I was forbidden from speaking to them. I got up earlier than before because I had to wash her car before she went to work.
"I had forgotten my language in almost twelve years"
If I cooked food without her expressly asking me to, she threw it all away. She got the good rice, I got the bad one. I liked to leaf through the newspaper, I couldn't read, but I looked at the pictures. If she got me, she threw the newspaper away. I couldn't look her in the eye either.
Above all, it was luck that I escaped from her. One morning when I brought her juice to her bed, the news was on. All of a sudden my brother was on the screen at a demonstration against forced labor for boys in Nepal. I remembered the place.
I hadn't seen him for five years, but the lady of the house wouldn't let me see him. I've begged, pleaded, over and over again. No. Only when I became defiant, no longer responding to her calls, did she finally allow me. Five minutes, she said.
After that, I stopped eating, stopped combing my hair, and didn't obey her orders. Finally she left me home - for a visit. I had to promise her to come back. My brother picked me up. The bus ride took 15 hours. My family still lived in the same house, and it was the same time of year that I was sold as a little girl. The Maghe Festival was coming up.
When I wanted to run to my house, I saw many young women with signs: "Stop the Kamlari system". It was then that I realized how many thousands shared my fate, how many were stolen from childhood. I hadn't even seen my parents yet, but I had to run with the women. We protested side by side until it was dark. When I got to dinner, I had no voice.
I finally sat at the table, in our house, with my family. My parents and my brother talked. I don't know what about, because I had forgotten my language in almost twelve years. I wasn't used to the spicy food either.
I'm 25. I graduated from high school. I still live in the village with my family. I told my father and brother never to demolish this building. It is my home
About Urmila Chaudhary
Urmila Chaudhary is 25 years old today. In 2010 she and others founded the non-profit organization “Freed Kamlari Development Forum” in Nepal, which she later took over as president. The organization helps to free girls from forced labor, provides information in villages and organizes demonstrations.
13,000 girls have been saved so far. In January 2018 Urmila received the Alice Salomon Award from the university of the same name for her work for the rights, freedom and education of girls and women in Nepal.
An international ban on child labor came into force in 1990 with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. All member states, with the exception of the USA, have ratified it, including Nepal. Slavery has been banned since the Human Rights Convention came into force in 1948.
Nevertheless, according to estimates by the Unicef Children's Fund, the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the World Bank, there are 168 million cases of child labor. According to UNICEF figures, around 15 million children and young people like Urmila work in private households - the majority of them are girls.
A new study by the ILO, the “Walk Free Foundation” and the “International Organization for Migration” states that around 40 million people worldwide were affected by modern forms of slavery such as forced labor or marriage in 2016. A quarter of them are children.
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