Nepali Times
Nepali Society
Pabitra and Pat

She is 12-years-old, works as a domestic help in Patan and writes poetry. Many of the poems that Pabitra has penned since coming to Kathmandu six months ago from Myagdi, are about friendship. Like this one remembering her friend and classmate Shanti back in Beni:

I go to pick a flower and get pierced by a thorn.
I long to meet you my friend, but the mountains block my way...

Pabitra had a chance to share her feelings recently with a new friend on the other side of the world. She sent the poem to journalist Pat Orvis in New York during an hour-long on-line chat. "I love your poem!" Pat wrote right back, "I wish I had been the friend for whom you wrote it!" Pabitra quickly responded: "You can be that friend...I can write poems for you too!"

The online chat between Pat and Pabitra was part of UNICEF\'s initiative to channel voices of young girls to the Beijing+10 forum in New York. Pabitra dictated her messages through an interpreter and told Pat about her chores as a child domestic worker, her hopes and dreams in life.

It was very difficult for Pat to understand how Pabitra coped with all the work: baby sitting the five-year old daughter of her employer, washing clothes and dishes, wiping floors and also taking out the family dog for a walk. Pat responded, adding that the rest sounded like a lot of work for someone who also needs to go to school. "Yes this is a lot of work," Pabitra replied matter-of-factly adding that the three hours of classes every day were the most-fun part of her day.

Pabitra was sent to work and study in Kathmandu by her parents "because of poverty and the Maoists" while her two brothers remained at home. "That does not sound fair!" Pat exclaimed. Pabitra explained that her parents were keeping her brothers with them because "they are the ones who will take care of them when they grow older!" Pat wanted to know if the boys were getting special treatment. Pabitra agreed but quickly defended her parents saying, "At home, there wasn\'t much discrimination. They used to love me a lot!" And she went on to tell her American friend she wanted to become a teacher to educate working children like herself.

Pabitra lives and works in Lalitpur and attends an out-of school class for domestic workers like herself being run by the group, CWISH which conducts 17 such centres in Kathmandu for more than 700 children with support from the ILO and World Education.

Talk of home saddens Pabitra, and she tells Pat she misses her family very much and was looking forward to going home and meeting them soon. Before signing off, Pat asked Pabitra about her thoughts on making life better for Nepali girls. Pabitra\'s reply: "All children should go to school, once girls study...they have the opportunity to become great one day."

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)