Nepalese girls, indentured servitude, and what you can do to help

The L.A. Times reported yesterday that families in Nepal – ethnically Tharu – are so impoverished that they sell their daughters into indentured servitude, a year at a time. At its best, this practice means these girls miss out on education. They help their masters’ children get ready for schools they themselves will never attend.

In many cases, however, it means the girls are underfed, malnourished, and overworked. In yet other cases, they are outright abused sexually, physically and emotionally.

“The landlord’s son beat me many times,” said Bishnu Kumari, 17, who was rescued a few years ago. “I felt dirty, unlucky to be born a girl. I was a slave.”

Why the boys aren’t sold this way, I can only speculate: boys are important.

But there’s good news:

Charity groups have rescued thousands of girls in the last year, generally during the brief period when the annual agreements are renewed, by convincing parents that the practice is unjust, a daughter’s education is worthwhile and that there are far less exploitative ways to earn family income.

They’re also staging street dramas to raise awareness, and get the general public thinking this shit is wrong.

I was disappointed that the L.A. Times didn’t include a link to any of the charitable groups, but I found this one: the Nepal Youth Foundation. I’m very cautious about recommending charities, since, er, some of them don’t use your monetary donations the way you would hope. But the NYF lists several ways you can help that don’t involve giving them money, and provides handy links to make it easy for you (it’s all about raising awareness). So I’m very comfortable recommending that you take a look at their suggestions.

What’s happening to the Tharu is a particularly extreme example, but the perception that boys are worth more than girls is a problem anywhere there’s a patriarchy. Of course, it would be awesome if no family ever had to think of any of their kids in terms of ROI. But then, some super-wealthy person would have to settle for just being plenty-wealthy, and we can’t have that.

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