Line of control

Sanjeev Satgainya


Hari, 12, works in a local teashop. He hails from eastern Nepal, and has never heard of child rights. His days are spent trying to keep body and soul together. “What is it?” he asks with innocence. Dilli, 13, has been in Kathmandu for the last seven years. He came here with his father’s acquaintances hoping to have a better life than in his village. His father’s hard-earned money was hardly enough to sustain a family of eight and so he was sent to Kathmandu as a “domestic help”. He has been going to school and is studying in class seven now. Kale, a 11-year-old boy from far-western Nepal, spends his day washing dishes, sweeping, taking the landlord’s kids to school, carrying their bags and assisting the lady of the house . These stories tell the same tale. Even lower middle-class families have either a girl or boy helping them in household chores. This is a growing global phenomenon trapping around 10 million children — mostly girls — in hidden forms of exploitation — verbal, physical and sexual abuse.

In the last eight years, insurgency and conflict has made it worse for children from rural areas. Vulnerable to conflict, they escape their villages to find the city is also ready to prey on them. Families have fled villages in terror only find starvation and poverty following them to the city. They are compelled to send their children to domestic labourers. Leyla Tegmo Reddy, director, International Labour Organisation, Nepal shares, “We believe that finding a solution for a better-designed programme for livelihood of children is today’s need. Access to education, basic health and recreational right are prime concerns. We don’t have the data yet of those children who have been working as domestic worker due to conflict, the general data shows that a lot has to be done in the country.” During ILO’s survey and studies, some astonishing and disheartening anecdotes have emerged. Peter Dalglish, ILO advisor, shares, “Invisibility is a major cause. Cultural and traditional forms of domestic labour has turned into commercialisation. Children lack support, miss their families and communities and their peer groups to play with.”

The number of child domestic workers is growing due to many factors: conflict and displacement is one major cause. Gauri Pradhan, president, CWIN, says, “Conflict has added salt to an old wound. We in partnership with ILO and other organisations are carrying out joint programmes. We believe children are a symbol of peace. We try to provide these children proper access to school, health care, recreation and other basic rights.” CWIN currently has 103 children in its centre.