Nepali Times
Making A Difference
Growing up behind bars

ALL PICS: Kimmo Räisänen

Imagine what it's like to be a child growing up behind cold metal bars surrounded by criminals serving time.
That is exactly what dozens of children are doing. This is the story of children who are growing up behind bars for no crime of their own, but they have no choice.

There are as many as 100 children trapped in various jails around Nepal, not because they've done anything wrong but simply because their parents have. With no one to take care of them, the parents have brought their children along to jail. The children are growing up with almost no basic amenities, without education, and without hope for a better tomorrow.

Amidst this story of gloom and doom, there is a tiny ray of light provided by Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC) which is working to provide imprisoned children a better life, while working to free them. Pushpa Basnet, who set up ECDC 7 years ago, says she made this her cause in life after meeting a little girl in jail during a college social service trip to Sundhara Jail.

Since it was started, ECDC has freed nearly 100 children from jail, overcoming red tape and building trust among the jailer, the mother and Pushpa herself. It all starts off by locating a child who is stuck behind bars, Pushpa personally travels to the jails herself even if it is in a remote part of Nepal to make official agreements with jailer, parent and ECDC.

After agreements are complete the child is taken to the ECDC home in Kathmandu where a new life awaits them. The child is welcomed by the other children already at the shelter, but this transition phase is the hardest for the child. Many are emotionally, physically and mentally scarred by their traumatising experience in jail. There are children who have seen their fathers kill their mothers, and even young girls who were raped by their fathers. The children are given necessary attention, from food to health, care and love. All children have different periods of adjustment but they are looked over and monitored through every step.

The ECDC residential home provides the child everything they need to ensure that they have the best life possible until their parents are released from jail. The children are enrolled in school, and they get additional tutoring if they are falling behind.

ECDC has also set up a day care center near Sundhara Prison for children less than six years whose mothers are in jail. These children are too young to be separated from their mothers, but at least get to see life outside jail even if it is only for the day.

After winning an interest-free loan from the organization, Change Fusion Nepal, in 2009 Pushpa has also trained mothers in jail to make handicrafts that are exported to generate income for the upkeep of shelters.

Suyash Raj Bhandari

See also:
Jailed kids get a release

Empowering young entrepreneurs
Change Fusion Nepal helps transform job seekers into job providers

1. Radha Krishna Deo

Good Job Pushapa !

This is due to poor mentality of our lawmaker and in active human right comission. this great challenge to them .We hope a time will come and your hard work will be as praised as of Hon. Anuradha.

2. Santa
Puspa no wonder that you have achived a great feat. I wonder if  a single strong lady like can do wonders then are are the high esteem organisations working for child right..Not to mention Save the Children ...A humble lady like you is what is required in the new nepal and not the sophisticated, arrogant organisations filled with neoptism and favouritism...If my memory goes right the jail is just 2 mins walk from the Save the Children office in Sundara..rather i guess they can oversee the jail from their window....I just pray u get all the required support for all your endevours...

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)