DAMBAR K SHRESTHA
Thousands of Nepali women leave the country every year in search of a better life abroad. I met a group of women last week who were preparing to leave to work as cleaners in Saudi Arabia. I talked to them about safety abroad, how to stay in touch with family and how long distance and lack of communication can hamper mother-child bonds.
To go abroad, most had taken loans from the village money lender at an interest of a whopping 60 per cent per month. None of these women realized that almost every penny they earned abroad would be spent repaying the loan.
Nepalis are willing to work in the worst of conditions abroad to pay off this loan. A representative from Israel told me how Nepalis don't complain about work conditions as they fear being sent back. This tension at work translates into psychological problems like depression. Unable to pay off the loan women are forced into prostitution and often end up behind bars.
Although there are many banks in Nepal, women do not send home money through banks, money exchange agencies, or co-operatives. A young woman Chandrakala told me she couldn't go inside a bank because she was didn't know how to write, the staff did not help and were often intimidated by the security guards banks have outside their doors.
At a time when banking has become business, village cooperatives are unable to invest and remain frozen. This is a problem CA members can easily fix, and it's high time they took up the issue. The parties may talk about financial revolution, what they don't understand is that their members are working like bonded labourers. It is time to bring together village cooperatives from the villages where women leave and declare the village 60 per cent interest free.