Marking World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, Islamic Relief’s Child Protection Specialist Ichharam Thapa sheds light on the vast issue of child trafficking in Nepal, and Islamic Relief’s efforts to help combat the issue.

In Nepal, human trafficking is unfortunately too common, with thousands of women and children being trafficked each year within and beyond my country’s borders. Victims are trafficked for sex, forced labour, and even for harvesting their organs.

Poverty is the main driver behind trafficking in Nepal, while illiteracy and a lack of awareness among vulnerable communities are also important factors.

Victims are often trapped with the promise of better jobs and a brighter future in India and other neighbouring countries.

In 2017 devastating floods hit Nepal, causing widespread devastation and pushing vulnerable families deeper into poverty. Many lost their homes and livelihoods, leaving children more vulnerable than ever to exploitation. In the aftermath of this emergency families struggled to survive by selling off the few assets they owned, and pressure increased on children and vulnerable adults to look outside their communities for work.

The desperate plight of many vulnerable families has had disastrous consequences for women and children, who have been put at heightened risk of sexual and gender-based violence, human trafficking, child marriage and child labour. To survive, some desperate families resort to selling a child into slavery.

Supporting communities in Rautahat

The district of Rautahat was badly affected by the flooding. Because it shares a border with India, it’s also become a transit point for trafficking.

To help combat the issue, Islamic Relief is working in partnership with the Rural Development Center (RDC), a local organisation, to support and strengthen existing community child protection structures.

We’re also working to address the root causes of child trafficking by supporting children at risk of being trafficked. This support involves providing education and healthcare to children, we well as financial assistance for their families.

Islamic Relief Nepal staff have established a community-led anti-trafficking alert and monitoring system. This is built around child protection committees who have been trained to help identify and refer cases of trafficking and child labour to the appropriate agencies.

We have also set up child protection and awareness centres to help raise awareness among vulnerable children, those caring for them and community leaders around children’s rights and the perils of trafficking. Trained staff inform community members of the support available for victims of trafficking.

 Ashim’s story

Twelve-year-old Ashim* was rescued from a child shelter in Darbhanga, India, and reunited with his family with the support of Islamic Relief’s project.

In February 2020, Ashim did not return home as normal. His worried father Suresh rushed to the local police station and reported his son as missing. Police searched for the child for a month, but sadly failed to find him.

Suresh was then informed by a neighbour that his son was living in a child shelter in India.

Islamic Relief worked with the RDC to process the necessary documentation for Ashim to be able to return from India – although the process was disrupted for months due to border closures as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With relentless effort from Islamic Relief, the RDC and the local police, Ashim was successfully rescued from India and reunited with his family.

Ashim and his father with government officials

It transpired that traffickers had tempted Ashim with promises of good livelihood opportunities in India. But due to the risk of being caught by police, they abandoned him and fled. Police found him at Darbhanga railway station and took him to the children’s shelter.

Ashim has now rejoined school and his parents are taking good care of him.

 

 

There are many children like Ashim who aren’t as lucky, and are forced into human slavery.

*Name changed for protection purposes

Islamic Relief’s work is helping to protect the vulnerable children of Rautahat from exploitation and harm, and ensuring a brighter future for all their communities.

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