Nepal: “I saw children carrying stacks of bricks almost bigger than themselves”

May 7, 2017

KATHMANDU, NEPAL — As part of my reporting on different stories, I visited Dhading, a neighboring district of Kathmandu. I was sad to see children working in brick kilns along the main road instead of going to school. Because I was curious to hear their stories, I went to one of the brick kilns and talked with some workers and children. Most shared with me that they had been working in brick kilns for many years.

“We are trapped into poverty and we cannot rise above,” says Punmaya Tamang, mother of Rita Tamang, 6, a child worker in a brick kiln. “Our children will also have to face similar fates in the days to come.”

During my reporting on child labor, I also went to some brick kilns in Kathmandu Valley to talk with child laborers there. From their stories, I could sense that there is a strong group of racketeers who traffic children to these kilns. Bindu Rokaya, 15, from Nepal’s northeastern Dolpa District on the far side of the Himalayas from Kathmandu, says a villager whom she had known brought her to work in a brick kiln with a promise of finding a good job for her in Kathmandu city. Once there, she realized she was trapped and that she could not return 468 kilometers (about 290 miles) to her home alone.

In the kilns, I saw children carrying stacks of bricks almost bigger than themselves. Many were barefoot, with torn clothes.

Due to poverty, lack of education and unemployment, children are forced to work in brick kilns as well as other sectors where they are vulnerable to physical and other forms of exploitation. I also talked with government officials and representatives of various organizations working on preventing child labor. Though the country has made child labor illegal, many children are still found working in brick kilns, hotels, factories, public vehicles and other sectors.

The government has prepared a master plan to eradicate child labor by 2020, but without an adequate budget and resources to implement it, it is a mere piece of paper.

Government officials underline the need of international development partners to eradicate the child labor problem. However, leaders of organizations working on this issue say government-initiated plans are ineffective.

Nepal is among countries in the world where the use of children as laborers is highest. In the brick industry between 2013 and 2015, Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission estimated that nearly 13,530 children worked making or carrying bricks in Kathmandu Valley, and that another 14,889 child laborers worked in kilns outside the valley.

This data gives a bleak picture of the problem in Nepal.

So, coming up with rules, regulations, laws or even a master plan cannot address the issue alone. There is a need for concerted effort from all government agencies and organizations to end the practice. Otherwise, Rita Tamang’s mother will be right: More children will face similar fates in the days to come.

Sagar Ghimire, GPJ, translated this article from Nepali.

 

Correction: An earlier version of this blog misstated Rita Tamang’s age. She is 6 years old, not 5 years old. The article has been updated. Global Press Journal regrets this error.