Rescuing Nepal´s Children from Exploitation

August 15, 2013

We have heard their stories—and they´re true.

Deceived but well-meaning parents who hand their Nepali daughter or son over to a smooth-talking stranger who promises payment to the family and a better life for the child. A runaway teen flees abuse at home and finds herself in the clutches of an opportunistic predator. Hungry street kids beguiled by bowls of rice who are forced to perform hard labor in South Asia mines or factories.

These are innocent victims whose “crime” is the life circumstances they were born into—desperate poverty, abandonment, homelessness. With no awareness of the dangers around them, they become easy targets for exploitation.

Girls from impoverished Nepali villages are at risk of exploitation.

Child trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar industry in Nepal. Every year some 7,000 to 10,000 Nepalese girls are taken across the border into India and sold against their will into prostitution. Others are sold into the Middle East or Southeast Asia commercial sex trade. Some of the girls are as young as nine years old.

Pimps take advantage of unsuspecting Nepali families, promising to take their daughters to a large city or even another country where they can receive good wages for work as domestics. In some cases a man may visit a village and identify himself as a successful businessman who is looking for a wife. Flattered and in need of money, the parents of an attractive teenage girl may view this offer as one they cannot refuse.

Boys are not safe either. They, too, may be sold into prostitution rings or placed into a circus where they work long hours with meager pay. They are lured by the dazzling descriptions of performing before crowds, earning a regular wage, and receiving an education. Some families have sold their children to circus traffickers for 1,000 rupees ($13 U.S.).

By the time these youth discover the reality of their situation, it is already too late. Far from home and without resources, they have no one to turn to for help. Sadly, many parents never hear from their children again.

Finding courage to heal

“The Lord gave me a burden for these vulnerable children and their families,” said a Christian Aid partner who operates a girls´ rescue ministry in Nepal. “I want to warn them of the dangers. At the same time, I see their need for hope and their desperate environment.”

Trafficking was such a problem in her own city of Hetauda that this compassionate believer decided to do something about it. Along with her husband and an assistant, they organized a program 14 years ago to educate villagers about the tactics traffickers use to snare children. Other women joined their team and received training to instruct more groups of people.

The Awareness Film Program educates Nepali youth about the deceptive tactics of would-be traffickers.

Through the ministry´s Awareness Film Program, more than 8,000 Nepali girls have learned the cunning ploys of those who might bring them harm. The Christian team goes from village to village showing the films, encouraging residents to report suspicious activity, and lending insight into how to protect their daughters. Most importantly, the workers bring good news of the Savior Who can restore their broken lives.

“If I had not been a believer, I could have been misled into prostitution myself. I am grateful to God that He spared me from such a miserable fate, and then chose me to work among my own people,” the ministry leader said. “My vision is not only to warn, educate, feed, or give shelter, but also to share the gospel with them.”

The couple sought to provide a place of healing for girls left scarred by exploitation. In the early years they opened their own home, providing meals and shelter and sharing the love of Jesus Christ.

In 2011 the ministry was able to purchase a facility to use as a safe house, thanks to gifts from Christian Aid donors. Thus far they have rescued and cared for 10 youth.

Unfortunately the girls have experienced problems this summer with young men who are making offensive comments and throwing small rocks at the dormitory. One man even climbed onto the roof. The ministry needs to build a higher, more secure wall to protect the occupants.

When young women are removed from months or even years of abuse, they need a helping hand to resume “normal life.” Emotional adjustment becomes more challenging when some try to return home only to face rejection by their families. Many are uneducated and lack job skills.

The ministry offers a vocational training program that prepares these women for employment in tailoring, weaving, and jewelry-making. They also receive counseling and participate in Bible studies.

This past spring 35 girls and women, all victims of trafficking or domestic violence, participated in the counseling program. Six of them committed their hearts to the Lord.

Minu´s story

One of the children the ministry recently rescued from a life of abuse and violence was an eight-year-old girl named Minu.

These young women are finding new hope through the ministry´s rehabilitation program.

Minu came from a remote mountainous area in Nepal. She had never experienced the love of a mother and father. Minu has no memory of her mother, who died when she was just two months old. Her father blamed the infant for his wife´s death. Desperate to get rid of her, he offered to give away his only cow to anyone in the village who would take the baby.

The couple that “adopted” Minu treated her more like a slave girl than a daughter. When she became old enough to help with chores, Minu was forced to go into the forest in the early morning hours to gather firewood. She was mentally and physically abused.

A member of the family feared for Minu´s safety, especially since the husband was a heavy drinker. She sought help from someone who could remove the child from such a destructive environment. A man from a neighboring village told her about a safe house for abused and neglected girls, and the family member arranged for the ministry to come and take Minu away.

“Her general condition was so poor and dirty,” said the ministry leader. “She had lice and I gave her a nice bath and cleaned her hair.”

The other girls in the shelter have tried to help Minu feel welcome. After all, she is part of a loving family now.

“She lost everything in her life, including parents and their love,” the leader said. “Now we can give her God´s love and our family love and care, as well as care for her basic needs.”

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