Rajbati lives in an agricultural village in south-eastern Nepal, where she has experienced caste and gender discrimination her entire life. She’s a member of a Dalit caste, a community traditionally considered “untouchable,” the majority of whom are illiterate without assets or land. When these individuals face financial emergencies their only option is to take out a loan from a landlord. Once the loan is taken, lenders expect families to provide labour to pay off the debt, often indefinitely. Like many other members of her village, Rajbati was unaware of the benefits available to her as a Nepali citizen, and she was vulnerable to exploitation by landlords and village merchants.
Her situation began to change after Rajbati joined a community group organized by one of the Freedom Fund’s partners. The group provided non-formal education classes, where Rajbati learned how to read and write. Through the group, she also learned about human rights and the meaning of trafficking, child marriage and other wellbeing topics such as hygiene, sanitation and safe drinking water. The classes emboldened her, and she studied enthusiastically, quickly becoming one of the group’s most active members.
The group taught participants about the importance of saving money, and its members began saving together. Rajbati eventually became the president of the savings and credit group, and as a result of her activism, she is now able to articulate the community’s challenges and advocate for change with relevant stakeholders. Formerly an illiterate member of a disadvantaged community, Rajbati has taken pride in leading her group and in witnessing the strong solidarity among its members to address any challenges they face, knowing that together they can sustainably improve their circumstances.
The Freedom Fund’s South-Eastern Nepal Hotspot works to end inter-generational bonded labour, helping victims come together for their rights to land, income, education and dignity. Find out more about our South-Eastern Nepal Hotspot here.
Photo credit: Ginny Baumann