Indira works in a granite quarry near Katmandu. She is 7 years old. The granite is sent to Britain to provide stone tiles for patios. Children are paid the equivalent of 25 cents a day to perform tiring and dangerous work with little or no safety gear. Approximately 32,000 children in Nepal work in stone quarries. Some are as young as 5 years old Many work besides their parents who are in debt bondage with little hope of escaping. Some live at the work site which is watched by guards who forbid them from leaving. The children are forced to perform hazardous jobs and if they refuse the employer withholds food from the family. Eradicating child labor from Nepal is difficult because it is fundamental to the economy. This mural was painted in conjunction with the 6th Annual Welling Court Mural Project in Astoria, Queens. It is located on 12th Street in between Welling Court and 30th Rd.
Entire families are in bonded labor slavery. Often, families get a loan for an emergency or to pay a broker a fee for getting hired on a new job. Slaveholders, the only people near with any money to lend, trick the borrowers into slavery through illegal, exorbitant interest rates that are impossible to repay. Children inherit the bogus debt from their parents. Generations of families have been enslaved for a loan of just $18.
Each day, children make several trips down the mountain, delivering stones from higher up in the Himalayas. They use makeshift harnesses out of ropes and sticks, strapping the stones to their heads and backs. Many of them come from families where everyone is trapped in debt bondage slavery. One of the mothers describes what it was like to be in slavery, “Neither can we die, nor can we survive.”