Child labor in Nepal is an open secret. From the capital’s public transports to the numerous highway hotels, and trekking routes across the Himalayan trails, it’s difficult to miss children at work. According to the National Child Labor report, an estimated 1.6 million children are in the country’s workforce — three-fourth of them are children under 14, and most of them are girls.
For this particular story, I met children who are working, and some of them rescued from forced labor — some had run away from their homes in search of a better life, others were working to support their families, and in some instances forced to be the ones who would bring additional income to the family.
While parents send off their children, many businesses that thrive of cheap labor readily recruit these children. There is in fact a demand and supply chain that fuels child labor — poverty is undeniably the biggest push factor. Many children end up in the country’s carpet, brick and garment industries working under excruciating conditions, often exploited physically and even sexually.
An estimated 172,000 children, according to a rapid assessment by international non-profit World Education in collaboration with Plan Nepal, are working as domestic child workers, 56 percent of them are below the age of 14. This trend though a serious issue is often overlooked. Employers argue that they’re providing a better life and education, as well as a salary, in exchange for the household chores.
As the country aims to eliminate hazardous forms of child labor by 2016 and all other forms of child labor by 2020, the challenge lies in the heart of the problem: poverty. Until and unless poverty persists, experts say problems as such will find a place in society.
For more insight on Nepal’s child labor, here’s my story for CNN: No life for a child: The grim reality of Nepal’s child laborers