My name is Jamuna Shrestha Bhattarai, country director for CRN Nepal. I have been working with CRN for two years to ensure safer childhoods for trafficked children and to free those children from slavery. We rescue children who are trafficked and working as child labourers as well as delivering awareness programmes to prevent child trafficking at a community level.
CRN has an amazing history. Through our local partner, we have already saved the lives of 859 children by rescuing them from different places in India and Nepal.
We believe that sending rescued children home to their families is the best option for children, so that they can grow within the family environment. But some children do not have families, or their families are in extreme poverty. In these situations, we care for children in our small family style homes. We have three care homes – two in Lalitpur and one in Hetauda, which is only for girls.
The question that always comes to my mind is how they feel about their life and how could we help them to be more independent and confident in their life. Our staff are regularly discussing the protection and development of the children in our care.
In March, I decided to visit our offices in Hetauda, the administrative centre of Makwanpur district, to meet the staff and girls in our care home. For various reasons I hadn’t been able to visit previously, so I was really keen to go. I was able to combine the visit with facilitating a workshop for all anti-trafficking organisations working in the area.
Hetauda is 87 km away from Kathmandu, but the roads are not very good. When I started my journey, I started to wonder why so many children are trafficked from the district of Makwanpur to the cities and into India. At the same time, I was excited to spend time with the staff and girls who we support.
When I arrived in Hetauda, all the staff and girls were waiting for me. I felt so happy. I had a briefing meeting with the Hetauda team on programme issues and we discussed solutions together. It was a very positive meeting.
We then visited the care home in, where all girls were waiting with big smiles to greet me. I had a wonderful discussion with the girls about their day to day lives, and their education. We also spoke about their dreams and plans for when they leave school. I felt so inspired by hearing their beautiful dreams. One girl told me she just wanted to be a good person. Another said that she wanted to finish her studies with good marks.
At the same time, they had many questions about their futures that they wanted to ask me. One girl asked if the organisation would stop supporting her she finished her grade 10 exams. Another wanted to know if she could complete her education up to grade 12 whilst still staying at the home. There were so many questions.
It was a great opportunity for me to confirm our long term support to the girls. We made clear the process of signing out, and all the girls were so happy with that and committed to doing their very best in their education.
Later I reflected on what an important role we have in not only meeting the physical needs of these girls, but in giving them confidence to live their lives and achieve their goals. We really need to encourage them to keep their dreams alive. I can see in the future all these girls becoming role models within their communities.
I was also greatly encouraged by the extremely positive networking meeting with other anti-trafficking organisations in Hetauda. I came away more convinced than ever that it only by working together that we will one day we can bring about the big changes in society that will lead to the end of child labour, abuse and trafficking in Nepal.