Project name: Change agents (trafficking prevention)
What: An awareness program in Dhading supporting 5 reunified youths and 10 change agents to inform local communities.
Partners: Dan Fredinburg Foundation, ForgetMeNot, The Himalayan Innovation Society
Why: To prevent child trafficking and wrongful institutionalisation of children
CHILDREN ARE NOT A COMMODITY!
One of the issues we often worry about at OrphanGift is a child being institutionalised when it can be avoided. This is an issue that is often not talked about, but has been present in Nepal among many other countries for a long time. We want to do our best to prevent this from happening. Therefore, together with the Dan Fredinburg Foundation, we have teamed up with ForgetMeNot to help prevent capable families effectively ‘handing away’ their children to institutions. These children are often referred to as ‘paper orphans’.
Unfortunately this is a shameful side effect of the existence of orphanages, and the innocent aid that people over the world give to these institutions. The worst-case scenario looks like this: an institution is set up as an ‘orphanage’, and then uses various ways to take advantage of vulnerable families by convincing them that their children will be better off at an orphanage (schooling, food provided etc). These families are often in very remote poor areas, where these arguments can be very convincing for the children’s’ future, even though they might actually be able to take care of the kids themselves. Once these illegal ‘orphanages’ have children living there, they can raise donations and financial support, often without much control of what the money is used for, or who benefits. This leaves much room for fraudulent behaviour. In the most horrible of examples the children will also be mistreated and/or abused. Another well-documented scenario is that some of these children do not even end up in so called ‘orphanages’, but rather get trafficked for prostitution and child labour. Our partner ForgetMeNot has a video illustrating their work in saving children from these types of predators:
It’s important to note that this is an extreme case, and many orphanages (preferably named ‘children homes’ or ‘boarding homes’) are well-intended organizations. For OrphanGift and the Dan Fredinburg Foundation, it is however very important that we help prevent this form of child exploitation from happening where we can.
Last year we spent considerable time being educated about this difficult situation. With the help from Anju at ForgetMeNot Nepal, and we tried to come up with ideas about how to get closer to solving the core of this problem. ForgetMeNot does amazing work in reunifying children with their families, but their frustration is in not being able to prevent it from happening in the first place. At the core of this issue there is vulnerability in the distant communities where child traffickers are actively exploiting.
We therefore started exploring a prevention program to inform these communities about the dangers at hand. Following this we have teamed up with ForgetMeNot to launch their first ‘Change Agent’ program, involving reunified children and local youth activists raising awareness in the most vulnerable villages across Nepal. The first program will be taking place in Dhading, where the government stopped a bus heading towards Kathmandu in May 2015 and rescued 45 children who were about to be trafficked. The objective is to make sure families are aware of the pitfalls of institutionalising their children, and putting this trafficking to and end. If a family CAN take care of their children, they should.
- 4-5 Reunified girls mobilized as Change Agents
- 120 awareness sessions conducted by reunified girls in villages and schools to educate on risk of trafficking, parental role, unnecessary family separation and importance of education
- 10 Change Agents mobilized from the communities
- 360 awareness sessions conducted by Change Agents in villages and schools to educate on risk of trafficking, parental role, unnecessary family separation and importance of education
If you want to support OrphanGift.org in our work, a donation on the homepage of https://orphangift.org/ would go a long way 🙂