There are an estimated 171,000 people living in modern slavery in Nepal (GSI 2018). Within Nepal, bonded labour exists in agriculture, brick kilns, the stone-breaking industry, and domestic work. Sex trafficking of Nepali women and girls increasingly takes place in private apartments, rented rooms, guest houses, and restaurants. Nepali and Indian children are subjected to forced labor in the country, especially in domestic work, brick kilns, and the embroidered textile, or zari, industry. Under false promises of education and work opportunities, Nepali parents give their children to brokers who instead take them to frequently unregistered children’s homes in urban locations, where they are forced to pretend to be orphans to garner donations from tourists and volunteers; some of the children are also forced to beg on the street.
Hem was brought to a carpet factory in Kathmandu where his parents hoped he would work towards a better future. He was forced to work day and night, often half-starved and regularly beaten. Because he was small and a somewhat slow weaver, the others tormented him. Night and day, with long iron rods and balling equipment, the weavers would beat him to the point of tears and bruises. After a company in the West signed with GoodWeave, inspectors found Hem working in a carpet factory in Kathmandu and enrolled him in the transit home for rescued children. Fourteen years after he was rescued and rehabilitated by GoodWeave, Hem responded to a job posting to join GoodWeave’s inspection team. He was hired and later on promoted to be the Child Development Officer to work one-on-one with rescued children.
I was born in Makwanpur District. It's a very remote area of Nepal. We were in a very poor condition economically, so we could not survive. There was a shortage of everything, like basic needs, electricity, food, education. Those are all things that were lacking at that place.
One villager from the same place, he was coming to Kathmandu to weave in a carpet factory. My parents decided to send me to Kathmandu with that villager. Then I came to Kathmandu in a carpet factory, and I started to weave in the carpet factory.
The carpet factory was the very worst part of my life. I was lost in the dark. I was, you know, I had lost all the possibilities, hope of my life.
I was young, I was small, and I could not complete the work as other elder workers, weavers do. At night, we had no proper room to sleep. We always had to sleep in a dark room that they used to say was extra room. But that was a toilet. We had to work more than 15 hours in a day. And the co-workers were very cruel to me, and in the factory, they had given me name ‘fuch-chee.’ In Nepali, ‘fuch-chee,’ that meant ‘little boy.’
Just nearby the factory, there was one boarding school, a private school, where our owner’s son used to go in the school. So, you know, I used to buy some uniform dress like they wore and I used to put. And I used to buy some pencils and copies, and I used to — I pretend to carry like this way. And you know, on the way, I used to go with them, like them, just up to the gate. Then all the students, they enter in the school compound and I was compelled to go in the factory, in the dark room. So, at that time, I had no hope of life.
Some inspectors were there. First, I convinced my contractor, and then the owner — the factory owner. This is impossible to make decision here, so please let us go together. I think they convinced our father and contractor, then they decided me to send in transit home in Balaju. Until that day, the happiest moment of my life was that day. I think it was 2000. So, until that day, that was the happiest moment of my life. So from that time, from that day, I got new life.
It was quite uncomfortable because that place was new. Though my aim was, anyhow I have to get the education. That was the main motto of my life.
But there was one big problem in my life. When I was in class 10, there was war—insurgency. And in the name of Maoists, my sister was killed. Later on, I got to know, and I got in a problem. But the important thing in my life is when I was lost somewhere, I was lost in, you know, that darkness, that muddy place. That I could come with the support of GoodWeave. That is the important part of my life.
Working in GoodWeave is like working at my own home. I have supported a lot of children, and you know, when I share my real story they’re motivated. They got motivated, as I experience. And you know, in addition to that, I always say to them, ‘Please compare your life. How was your life in the past and how it is now? And how should [you] make it in the future? For that, you should make your goal of life.’
This is the place where I used to work when I was small, when I was 10 to 13 years old. Today, I could understand the rights of the workers, rights of the child, and about the humanity and human rights so. Today, my life has changed a lot.
Narrative provided by and all credit to GoodWeave International.
Original narrative can be found here.