Nepali Times
Nation
Bonded child labourer to CA member


SUNIR PANDEY
Shanta Chaudhary, 32, former CA member, was addressing a conference on child labour earlier this month, speaking confidently about the need to end the exploitation of children. But when she started speaking about her own past, she broke down and wept.

Chaudhary was forced to become a kamlari (girl-child indentured labourer) when she was eight. She remembers her landlord's family kicking and taunting her mercilessly for the slightest mistakes. "I could bear the physical pain," Chaudhary sobbed, "but what I could not bear was not being able to see my parents."

The ridicule she faced as a child inspired her to struggle against bonded labour. Her own family was not very supportive because they thought rebelling against the system would take away their only means of livelihood.

Chaudhary, her parents and her six sisters continued working as bonded labourers long after it was made illegal. "We knew nothing else but farming and since we didn't own any land we had to work for the landlords as bonded labourers," she explains.

Chaudhary's journey from a kamlari to lawmaker in the CA was a long and difficult one. Even after she came to Kathmandu and sat in the Constituent Assembly, she faced contempt from other representatives and the media because she could not read and write.

But she taught herself not just to write, but also to read technical papers at the Natural Resources Committee which she chaired.

Chaudhary whose husband Harsha Lal also worked as a kamaiya has been her strongest support, taking care of their two children while she was busy trying to complete Nepal's new constitution. Now that she is free from her CA duties, she plans on finishing her autobiography by the end of this year.

"We fought against bonded labour so that our sons and daughters wouldn't have to go through the suffering we experienced. But there are still many young children who are being robbed of their childhood," she says, "the first step is for politicians to practice what they preach and not use underage domestic help in their own homes."

Read also:
Lost innocence

Cheated of their childhood, BHRIKUTI RAI
There are fewer Nepali boys and girls working, but the ones who do are in dangerous occupations

Caution: children at work

See also:
A costly freedom for kamalaris, KONG YEN LIN in BANKE

Kamlaris in Dang, SUMAN PRADHAN in DANG
Young Tharu girls sold into indentured labour are slowly being brought home



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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