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Girl Rising in Nepal: a girl, a writer, a powerful story.

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Girl Rising is a feature film that highlights the stories of nine young women from around the globe, and the critical role education plays in each of their lives The following chapter features Suma, a young woman from Nepal. Suma plays herself in a story written by celebrated Nepali author, Manjushree Thapa.

Girls who go to school see immediate benefits beyond the things they're learning. Being a student enhances their status in the community. It improves their health. It makes them safer. But in the developing world, getting an education is not what people expect girls to do. Girls are expected to work. Expected to fetch water. To care for younger children. To get jobs... or worse. [80% of all human trafficking victims are female] It happens to girls like Suma. Suma's parents didn't send her to school. They sent her to work. It's called kamlari.

I write songs to remind myself that my memories are real. And often, because there's so much sadness behind me, what comes out is sad. Both of my parents were bonded as kamlar and kamlari in their childhood. That's the way things have been around here. That's the way they have been for the poor. You have to bond yourself to a master, otherwise - how will you live? [Suma - Bardiya, Nepal [Suma - Bardiya, Nepal by Manjushree Thapa]

This was the house of my first master. My mother and father bonded me just so that I would have somewhere to live and enough food to eat. I was six years old. Faggu Tharu was a landlord and a miller. He made me work from four in the morning to late at night. I had to clean the house and wash the dishes and go to the forest to fetch firewood. When I wasn't minding the goats I had to mind the children. The goats were nicer. The daughters made fun of me because my clothes were torn. They teased me. They beat me. I wanted to my mother and father to take me back. I wanted them to let me stay at home and go to school, like my brother. But when I thought about how poor they were, and how much they too had suffered, it made me feel weak. I couldn't ask.

This was the house of my second master. Janak Malla wore a uniform to work. He and the mistress of the house were very hardhearted. "Unlucky girl," they used to call me. "Ey, unlucky girl, do this," they'd shout. They made me sleep in the goat shed, and wear rags, and eat scraps from their dirty plates. I can't really talk about everything that happened to me here, but I will never forget. This is where I began to write songs. Only the songs got me through. [Thoughtless were my mother and father] [They gave birth to a daughter] [They gave birth to a daughter] [My brothers go to school to study,] [While I, unfortunate, slave at a master's house] [It's a hard life, being beaten every day.]

This was the house of my third master. I was 11 years old when I arrived at Chaitey Tharu's house. I had been a kamlari for 5 years. It wasn't as bad here. I mean, it was bad because there was a lot of work - but there was a lodger in that house, a schoolteacher called Bimal Sir. He changed my life. Bimal Sir convinced my master and mistress to enroll me in a night class. All of us would gather after finishing our day's work, and we would learn to read and write. I loved that night class so much. It was run by social workers for girls just like me, kamlaris. We would also talk to the teachers about what it was like to be a kamlari. And as we talked we began to realize that bonded labor was - and isn't it? Slavery. The teachers who ran the night class began to go from house to house. [There is a small girl working here. I am here to take her.] [Why?] They wanted to liberate us. One teacher, Sita- didi told my master that he was breaking the law by keeping me as a kamlari. She talked about the law against bonded labor, and the law about children's rights, and the law on labor rights, and the law against domestic violence and trafficking. She talked to him about justice and injustice. And she demanded that he set me free. My master said no; once made, a bond couldn't be broken. Sita-didi didn't give up. She kept arguing. She came back day after day - and in the end, she led me home to my mother and father.

I am my own master now. I have no mistress. I was the last bonded worker in my family. After me everyone will be free. I feel as though I have power, I feel like I can do anything. And I have important things to do. Inside this house is a girl like I was. Away from her parents. Working morning to night. Wanting so badly to be free. We have come to this house, the house of her master - to say we know you have a kamlari working for you. You must set her free. I've seen where change comes from. When it comes, it's like a song you can't hold back. Suddenly there's a breath moving through you, and you're singing- and others pick up the tune and start singing too. And a sweet melody goes out into the world and touches the heart of one person, then another, and another.

The practice of Kamlari has been illegal in Nepal since 2000. Now, with the help of girls like Suma, it's finally coming to an end. For Suma, it is not enough that she herself is free. She's using her education to make sure all girls are getting to school. Because Suma knows that when parents have to choose, they usually choose to educate the boys. So girls have less opportunity, less freedom, and less education than the boys they grow up with. [33 million fewer girls than boys are in primary school worldwide] This means the girls suffer more hunger, more violence, and more disease. [75% of AIDS cases in Sub-Saharan Africa are women and girls] It's a simple fact. There is nobody more vulnerable than a girl. In one year 150,000,000 girls are victims of sexual violence

GIRL RISING - Behind The Scenes: Meet The Writer The stories of the nine girls featured in Girl Rising are told by celebrated writers from around the world Nepali writer Manjushree Thapa shares her experiences with Girl Rising and what it was like getting to know Suma All of my writing and my heart is definitely in Nepal. Ten years ago there was a movement that began in this area. It was called the "Kumiya Liberation Movement", and it was to end the bonded labor among the adults in this community, basically a movement to end slavery. It was something that I had been involved with in Katmandu. And it's actually the only time I've ever been to jail was for that movement, just for a day. And it was a moment when we all felt really victorious when the government declared okay this practice has ended. And then ten years later when you realize that it's ended for the adults, but the children are still being bonded. It's shameful, it's shocking. It's just the kind of thing that, you know, makes your blood boil, to have slavery, you know, practiced in this day and age. Suma was sold into slavery as a very young child. She seems very shy at first, but once she starts to speak she says really interesting and surprising things. She's very observant. She sees things in a certain way so that's been really interesting. When we approach some of her most painful experiences - she's clearly been through a lot. She doesn't want to go there. She's really focusing on taking it forward in a very positive way. Women are the biggest agents of change in Nepal, and you have to remember the experience of being a girl in Nepal, it's an intensely gendered experience. Everything in your life is shaped by the fact that you're a girl, and there are restrictions. Try to do something else. I think education is one of the key components to changing, you know, girls and therefore the world. So Suma's groundbreaking work in her village, it's really so inspiring. When girls and women change, that changes everything.

GIRL RISING - IN PRODUCTION: Stories from the Field During the production of Girl Rising, we interviewed remarkable girls across nine countries. In Nepal, we met dozens of girls, including Suma; who had been liberated from indentured servitude. Here are some of their stories. I knew they were coming to take me. I cried the whole day, hoping the car would never come, but it came. I didn't even know where I was going or who the people were. My parents simply said I had to go and work. We were so poor. My mother tried to make me feel better by saying that if I became a Kamlari, at least my brothers and sisters would have food to eat. They are known as Kamlari girls. I was a Kamlari for six years. I was sold when I was 6 years old. I became a Kamlari when I was 13. I was sent to work as a Kamlari at age 10, like my mother before me. My day started at 4 in the morning when the landlord's wife woke me up. I worked all day and into the night. The house I was sent to was barricaded with a fence and I wasn't allowed to go outside. Even though I wanted to run away, I couldn't. Though the practice of Kamlari was outlawed in 2006, more than 20,000 Nepali girls still work as Kamlari When girls like me become Kamlaris, we have to deal with a lot of violence, physical violence and sexual violence. I thought I would spend my whole life as a Kamlari. With the support of local international organizations Kamlari girls are getting a second chance. When they told me they would help me go back to school, that was the happiest moment of my life. If I'm given the chance, I'll continue to study for the rest of my life. I want to be a teacher. I want to free all the Kamlaris and make sure that they are sent back to school. Asha, Sita and Suma are all back in school and active in the movement to end the Kamlari tradition. My parents only paid attention to their sons. They only educated their sons - but I have changed this. I said to my parents, treat us all the same. Treat me the way you would treat your son. And gradually my mother and father have started to change.


Video Details

Team: Girl Rising
Duration: 18 minutes and 24 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
License: All rights reserved
Views: 398
Posted by: tertia on Feb 8, 2014

Girl Rising is a film about the strength of the human spirit and the power of education to change the world. Here, watch Suma's story of being bonded into labor at age 6 and how she now uses her hard-won education to help free other girls. Meet acclaimed author Manjushree Thapa who wrote Suma's story for the film, and learn about the devastating practice of "kamlari," or bonded labor that is, in effect, modern day slavery. (for the complete film:

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