Asha Nepal works with young women and children in Nepal who have suffered from the worst social evils – trafficking into the sex trade, physical and sexual abuse, gender and caste discrimination – as well as those who are at severe risk of abuse or being trafficked. We offer them a safe, nurturing home and an education to allow them to rebuild their lives and re-enter society. We have around 100 children in our care, mostly girls aged 6 to 18 years, plus some boys aged 6 to 11. We also support their mothers through our outreach programme.
One size does not fit all
With over 15 years of experience working with survivors of trafficking and sexual abuse, we have shaped our programmes to fit the needs of the young women and children whose lives have been so badly damaged. We believe that every person is an individual. After the initial provision of healthcare, counselling and security, we look at their longer-term needs, creating a comprehensive case file for each one, covering their physical and mental health, welfare, family situation, education, dreams and aspirations, and, where age-appropriate, career prospects.
Our guiding principle is to empower young women and children to live normal lives in the community – either by supporting them to stay within their families, or to help them reintegrate back into society. The Children’s Transitional Home and The Girls’ Centre are safe homes that provide a stepping stone back to normal life, rather than long-term institutions that depersonalise and create dependency.
East, West, home is best
In the case of children at risk, while there will always be those who sadly need to be separated from their family, we prefer to find ways of preserving the family unit. Our Family Preservation Programme provides educational and additional support to allow the child to stay in his or her family home.
Education, education, education
All the children and young women in our care attend full-time education to at least Year 10, when they can attain their School Leaver’s Certificate (SLC). This is the key to an independent future, and central to combating the worst social crimes of abuse and trafficking.
Education empowers girls to take informed decisions about their lives, to know their rights, to take care of their health, and it leads to employment and self-sufficiency. Education of women can have ripple effects within the family and down generations. It is ultimately the way out of the poverty trap that allows trafficking – with the false lure of a ‘better life’ – to persist.
Prevention is better than cure
Despite laws against trafficking, sexual abuse and gender discrimination, the Nepali government, legal system and male-dominated society allow these crimes to perpetuate. Asha Nepal steps in when children and young girls are at serious risk, to prevent harm coming to them. Cases (referred to us by non-governmental organisations [NGOs], government agencies and, occasionally, individuals or a family member) are assessed by our social work team and referred either to the Family Preservation Programme, the Children’s Reintegration Centre or one of the Foster Homes.
Back to normality
When young women in our care are ready to re-enter society, we support them into meaningful employment through our Job Coordination Scheme, to allow them true self-sufficiency. Equally, when children in our residential care are ready to return to their families, we transfer them to the Family Preservation Programme, so that they can continue their studies and receive whatever additional support they may need to enable them to live at home.
Our door is always open
Back in the outside world, life can be tough for young people affected by trafficking and sexual abuse; they may be rejected by their families and communities, and rendered casteless. We are always here for them, and help in whatever ways we can. In 2014, for example, we gave seed loans to two sisters who were educated and trained in tailoring through Asha Nepal, and needed funding to set up their own boutique.