Govt to provide scholarships to kamalaris

KATHMANDU: Kamalaris—a practice of sending young daughters aged between 7 and 16 as domestic help in mid-and far-western regions of Nepal— is all set to become a thing of the past.

Come next academic session and the school-age kamlaris in six districts of the mid-and far-western regions will go to school instead of their landlords’ houses.

“The Ministry of Education is going to give scholarships to the school-age kamlaris in Dang, Banke, Baridia, Kailali, Kanchanpur and Surkhet,” said Mahashram Sharma, Director General, Department of Education.

These girls were hitherto sold off to their landlords by their poor parents, who lived in vicious cycle of poverty. They were forced to do so for their livelihood.

To begin with, the government will identify the number of kamalari girls in those districts in the next few months and spearhead an awareness campaign within the Tharu community, where the practice is rampant, according to Sharma.

“The scholarship will begin from the next academic session,” Sharma said. The government has allocated Rs 120 million for the scholarship of kamlari girls through its budget 2009/10. Kamlaris are among the current 7 per cent of out of school children, who are being deprived of a chance to go to school.

“According to our data, 93.7 per cent children in their school-age have enrolled in school thus far, while around 7 per cent, including kamlaris, are still out of school because of geographical difficulties, prevalent social tradition and poverty,” Sharma said.

Many Tharus live in abject poverty in the far-flung districts and they have not figured out what a school looks like despite their children’s hunger to study and be independent. “This is why the government has decided to provide the scholarship to educate them and eliminate the bad practice in our society,” Sharma added.

According to Sharma, an estimated 8,604 kamlari girls are in their school-age, 350 kamlaris have no parents and 800 needed vocational training. The agency, which will identify kamalaris in those districts, is the Child Welfare Committee.