Trafficking of girls in Nepal is rife, with an estimated 12,000 children trafficked to India every year, according to UN figures. Facing a grim reality at home marked by poverty, misery and a lack of education, girls are often coerced or even forced to leave their villages looking for work and new opportunities.
But the promise of a new life soon turns into a nightmare with girls being recruited into prostitution or domestic slavery and subjected to horrific conditions that leave them with deep physical and emotional scars.
Following the devastating earthquake of 2015, authorities on both sides of the India-Nepal border say there has been a surge in trafficking. Even after girls are rescued, they suffer discrimination back home due to the stigma associated with trafficking and slavery. Those who do return find themselves shunned from their communities, isolated and vulnerable.
The founders of Shakti Samuha understand first hand the trauma suffered by survivors of slavery and transformed their trauma into a source of hope and healing for other survivors and those at risk of being trafficked.
Shakti Samuha provides safe houses and an emergency support programme to rehabilitate survivors and their children, and offer them income-generating skills to ensure a sustainable livelihood. The organisation holds monthly meetings to educate girls on trafficking and exploitation as well as training sessions on leadership skills and problem solving.
Workshops are conducted on a regular basis to provide education, healing, and empowerment. Girls are taught about child sex abuse prevention and child rights. In addition, they are offered training in beauty treatments, dance and entrepreneurship.
To date, Shakti Samuha has had an impact on 2,485 beneficiaries directly and educated more than 17,000 people on the dangers of trafficking.
Photos: NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati