Monday, August 11, 2008

Fate of Nepalese Girls

Extreme poverty is driving some rural families to the point of no return - they are selling the young daughters - some aged as young as 7yo - to wealthy families as domestic slaves.

However, one pioneering woman decided it was time for change ....

From San Francisco Chronicle:
Olga Murray "... asked the Tharu village fathers to keep their daughters home and send them to school instead of selling them at the annual Maghe Sakranti Festival every January. In exchange, families could raise the pigs and sell them for the same amount they could fetch for their daughters. Murray's nonprofit organization, the Nepalese Youth Opportunity Foundation, also would pay for the girls' school expenses. Plus, it would kick in a kerosene lamp and 2 liters of kerosene a month - coveted items in an area without electricity.

It was an experiment based on Murray's understanding of Nepali culture after living there off and on for five years and sponsoring the education of orphans and street children. She knew pork is a prized meat and that for some families, selling a daughter was the only way to afford food for the rest of the family.

Of the 37 families she and her Nepalese counterpart Som Paneru approached that first year, 32 took the deal. Some asked for and received a goat instead of a pig.

Murray and Paneru have since steered 3,000 girls away from slavery and all but eradicated the long-held tradition of indentured servitude in the Tharu village.

Murray and Paneru have been so successful in Dang, they have started to bring their pigs-for-girls program to the neighboring district of Bardiya. Since January, they have liberated 500 girls there, Murray said.

Her foundation is putting 1,500 girls through school at an annual cost of $100 per student. The Nepalese Youth Opportunity Foundation also runs two boarding schools, one for boys and one for girls who are abandoned or disabled. So far they've been able to send 30 of their boarding school graduates to college."

Now - isn't that a good news story ....

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