The Latest

Using Life Skills to Break Tradition of Bonded Labor

Shriluna Shrestha

| November 22, 2017

Give with purpose. Give education.

As dawn breaks, Parbati reaches for the broom, beginning another day of tireless work.

It's been 11 years since the 16-year-old’s mother passed away and since then, life has hardly been easy. Shortly after Parbati lost her mother, her father was incarcerated. With nowhere to go, she moved in with her aunt. While this has provided a roof over her head, the space doesn't feel like home –  those comforts vanished when her parents did.

Handling all domestic chores, Parbati doesn’t remember the last time she had a good night’s rest or rose to a peaceful morning. She wakes up early and makes a beeline for her chores. The first to rise and last to go to bed, she’s grown used to cleaning up after everyone, head resting on her pillow long after everyone else has fallen asleep.

“One day when I was talking to my didi, (friend-sister) I came to know about Kamlari,” Parbati says, referencing the illegal, but widely accepted, tradition in Nepal, where girls are sold as bonded labor in lieu of loans.  

“She told me she, too, worked as a kamlari before. Each time I listened to her stories, I had one question running through my mind. Was I being treated as one, too?”

The more Parbati thought about it, the more she realized she was experiencing something quite similar.

“I was carrying the weight of all domestic chores on my shoulders,” she says. “And I have never felt loved, or a part of the family.”

In Bardiya, a district in far western Nepal, eight out of 10 girls have lived as a Kamlari. Parbati’s didi was one of them, and Parbati also felt on the brink of becoming one.

Alone and disheartened, her sadness grew as did her daily chores.

Then, Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program discovered Parbati while looking for girls at risk of becoming kamlari. Upon joining the program, Parbati not only found support from social mobilizers who closely mentored her, but also garnered hope and confidence through life skills coursework.

“My life reached a turning point when I participated in the program,” says Parbati. “The life skill sessions and mentorship boosted my emotional well-being. I learned that education is the only thing that cannot be taken away. It is the key to fulfilling my dreams.”

At home, Parbati still works her fingers to the bone. But now, with support and educational promise, she’s optimistic about her future. With the help of workshops teaching her how to effectively communicate, manage stress, and plan ahead, she’s able to push through daily challenges and think long term.

“Despite her challenging home environment, Parbati has made remarkable progress in her studies and improved her behavior,” says Surji, her social mobilizer. “I am very proud of her accomplishments. She can progress further if she finds a more nurturing space in her home.” 

Parbati is now an eighth grader and dreams of becoming a doctor.

“I read about the profession in my pre-vocational class. I was intrigued by the stethoscope that doctors wear around their neck,” Parbati says. “I will find peace of mind when I have completed my studies and pursued my dreams.”

With your support, Parbati can achieve her goals. Join us and give girls like her the gift of dignity

An Illegal, but Accepted Tradition

Many Kamlari girls are forbidden to attend school and often subjected to physical and sexual abuse.

Learn About our Impact in Nepal

Providing Support & Mentorship

In 2015, approximately 750 students in our Girls' Education Program were former Kamlari

Watch Suma's Story

Give the Gift of Dignity

Become a monthly donor and help ensure girls around the world grow up with dignity.

Give the Gift of Education

Related Articles

How Her Mother Inspired Nirupa to Beat the Odds


May 08, 2016

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

A Year After the Nepal Earthquake, a Survivor Finds Strength at School


April 22, 2016

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

She Didn’t Know It Was Her Wedding Day


May 07, 2015

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

After Devastating Flood in Nepal, Room to Read Team Bands Together to Bring Reli...


January 28, 2015

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

Whatever Comes At Her, She's Not Afraid Anymore


July 14, 2014

Girls' Education, Nepal

Read More >

International Women’s Day: Dreaming of Olympic Gold in Nepal


March 04, 2014

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

Reconnecting with "Nurse Prem" in Nepal


December 16, 2013

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

In Honor of International Day of the Girl Child: From Nepal to New Jersey


October 07, 2013

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

Guest Blog by Author Manjushree Thapa: Meeting Some of Nepal's Extraordinary Gir...


June 21, 2013

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

Tune in: Suma’s Story Comes to CNN this Sunday!


June 13, 2013

Girls' Education, Asia

Read More >

"Going to School, Instead of Work", CNN


May 16, 2013

Girls' Education, Nepal

Read More >

Celebrating International Women's Day and the Release of Girl Rising: An Update ...


March 07, 2013

Girls' Education, Nepal

Read More >

"International Women's Day: Advancing The Next Generation of Gals", Huffington P...


Erin Ganju

| March 08, 2012

Girls' Education, Nepal

Read More >