Special Didi Program 

Girl trafficking is a very severe problem in Nepal. Poverty, illiteracy, and lack of employment opportunities in the country enable the traffickers to exploit young girls. Here are just a few examples and statistics from the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime’s website on this issue:

The latest report on Trafficking in Persons from Nepal’s Human Rights Commission estimates that around 35,000 people, including 15,000 women and 5,000 girls, were victims of this crime in 2018.

“The main forms of trafficking are for the purpose of sexual exploitation, forced labour and removal of organs,” says Binija Dhital Goperma, UNODC’s Programme Coordinator in Nepal.

“Nepalis working abroad or planning to migrate and girls and women from rural areas with limited economic opportunities are most vulnerable to the tricks of the traffickers, which include fraudulent practices and fake promises.”

This month, our team organized a special Didi program via Zoom. Our guest Didi (speaker) of the program was a very courageous and influential person who has been recognized both nationally and internationally for her work to combat trafficking. Ms. Sanjamaya (Maya) Tamang, founded Shanti Foundation in Nepal to help victims of trafficking, and her story is very amazing as she is a survivor herself and experienced the harsh reality and trauma that girls and women who are trafficked go through and how they do not get to live a life of dignity even after being rescued. Many Rukmini Bahinis, Rukmini Team, teachers and G.L.O.W. Club members and mentors attended the virtual program. Maya Didi educated the girls and the audience by sharing her experiences and her story, which moved and captivated everyone.

Maya Didi’s Story 

She was born in a remote village of Sindhuli district in Nepal. When she was growing up, girls were typically not sent to school as they were needed to help the household. As a result, she did not get an education. At the age of 12, she left home in search of work in Kathmandu. She found a job in a carpet factory that employed many girls and women. She was happy to find a job and make some money to support her family even at her age. She worked at the carpet factory for a few months, but suddenly one day the girls were told that they were going to Banaras, a city in India, to bring merchandise for the factory. Without knowing what was going on, the girls and women were taken to India and were sold to a brothel in Mumbai, India. Then 12 years old Sanjamaya was forced to live a life of unimaginable torture at the brothel. She spent five horrible years of her precious life in these conditions. 

That life suddenly ended in 1996 when India’s government enforced a policy that made underage prostitution illegal. While enforcing the law, several brothels were raided, and 500 girls were rescued from Maharashtra brothels. Among these, 150 were Nepali girls including Maya. 

She was relieved to be free of this bondage and hopeful with the thought of meeting her family when they were taken to the shelter. Sadly, Nepal’s government was not eager to bring them back home. In that time different social organizations like Maiti Nepal, another amazing organization founded by the inspirational Ms. Anuradha Koirala, brought them back to Nepal and helped them with education, training and employment. Despite being “free” and eventually making it back to Nepal, life continued to be very difficult for Maya. She was not accepted by society, sadly enough, not even by her family. She found a job eventually, but sadly was fired after the employers learned about “her past”. She was even able to get married, only to be eventually left by her husband. She had a daughter from that marriage, whom she needed to support even though she herself did not have any support. She was facing rejection from every front of society, but her motherly instinct and personal courage kept her fighting for survival for herself and her young daughter. 

She knew that education was essential for her to be able to help herself and others, so she enrolled herself in an informal open school when her own daughter started school. Mother and daughter were learning together, and her daughter taught her everything she had learned in her own school. Her daughter helped her a lot in her education. Maya studied all the way to college, and that education provided her enough knowledge to be able to find a way of helping victims facing hardship and rejection. Her personal experience guided her in formulating ideas on planning and executing programs that could be helpful in easing their pain, which was also her pain. Consequently, Shanti (Peace) Foundation was established in 2016, and it has been helping thousands of victims by providing necessary education and training, treatment, counselling, and support.

She visits various remote areas to educate the people about girl trafficking, talk about the harmful effects of child marriage, the importance of education, and provides self-help training and cyber-crime awareness that helps prevent trafficking. Her speech helps the audience understand girl trafficking and its causes and implications for women and girls through her own amazing story of hardship, courage, and resilience. 

Through her work she has received several national and international awards and is now highly regarded by all, including many of those people who may have rejected and discarded her in the past. Our Bahinis learned many valuable lessons from her inspirational story. It was a fantastic opportunity for all the audience to learn about a very pressing issue faced by vulnerable girls and women.

From Didi’s story, I learned to be courageous and hopeful in life. Girls need to be independent and get an education before getting married.

Susmita Tamang, Rukmini Bahini

Please consider learning more about Shanti Foundation and supporting their good works.

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