For generations, thousands of low-caste families in southeastern Nepal have been trapped in a form of bonded labour known as Harawa-Charawa. Men grow and till the crops of landowners, while women, children, and the elderly work as cattle herders or as domestic servants for up to 17 hours a day. They receive little or no pay for backbreaking labour and suffer from extreme poverty. Families have no choice but to borrow money from their landlords at illegally high interest rates, further trapping them in a cycle of debt. If they try to leave, they often face intimidation and violence.
A movement of survivors led by the Harawa-Charawa Right Forum is fighting for a different future. While others view the situation of the Harawa-Charawa as intractable, these survivor leaders advocate for the liberation of their community, guided by a bold vision: that freedom is possible.
The Freedom Fund has had the honour of walking alongside these groups for nearly a decade. With support from donors including The Norwegian Organisation for Development Coordination, their tireless efforts led the government of Nepal to declare the liberation of the Hawara-Charawa in July 2022.
Yet this work is far from finished. Now activists are calling for the government to deliver on its commitment by providing the Harawa-Charawa with what they need to be truly free: land, safe housing, quality education, health and employment. We are proud to support their fight for justice and liberation.
The Harawa-Charawa community’s journey is now documented in their own words through our new short film. As my colleague Jiyam shares, “Building movements doesn’t happen overnight.” For the Freedom Fund, their story is a reminder that investing in grassroots leadership to end modern slavery is not only the right thing to do. With the right resources, frontline groups can drive transformational change.