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South-Eastern Nepal

HOTSPOT NAME South-Eastern Nepal
SLAVERY TYPE Bonded labour
TOTAL INVESTED $8.3 million

Through this hotspot, thousands of individuals and families in agricultural bonded labour are coming together for their rights to land, incomes, education and dignity – working for an end to this inter-generational form of modern slavery.

Hotspot start date: November 2014

In south-eastern Nepal, the International Labour Organization estimates that 97,000 adults and 13,000 children are in forced labour, through a system called Harawa-Charawa. Within these families, men work growing crops, and women, children, and the elderly work as cattle herders or as domestic servants. A large proportion of these households are from “Dalit” castes, traditionally considered “untouchables”.

Most have no assets or land, so when they face financial emergencies their only option for a loan is from a landlord. Once a loan is taken, lenders expect families to provide labour to pay off the debt – often indefinitely. In another recent study, nearly a quarter of Harawa-Charawa respondents interviewed said that they worked 13-17 hours a day and nearly all families interviewed had experienced violence of various forms. If the families were to refuse to work, they would be likely to be expelled from their homes. In addition, bonded labour of these families feeds directly into child trafficking and unsafe adult migration.

Read the South-Eastern Nepal Hotspot 2021 Annual Report

The South-Eastern Nepal hotspot is a comprehensive community-based program, currently supporting 9 local NGOs’ and 4 specialist NGOs’, and aims to contribute significantly to the eradication of this form of bonded labour. The inter-linked strategies of the hotspot, based on communities’ and local NGO’s understanding of the root causes include:

Creating over 275 community-based freedom groups of those in bonded labour, beginning with participatory literacy and human rights awareness sessions.

Enabling these groups to begin savings and be supported to develop independent sources of income. Helping them mobilise government land rights policies to access cultivable land.

Removing over 5,000 children from hazardous child labour, helping them attend non-formal education and be successfully integrated in village schools.

Bringing Nepali and international experts to help understand and find the best ways to help individuals cope or recover from the mental and emotional injuries of slavery.

In each local government area, working with officials, teachers, and law enforcement to implement relevant services and laws for addressing bonded labour. Supporting advocacy by the freedom groups and NGOs so that the families’ rights to identity and to government services are achieved.

The Freedom Fund has also supported the establishment of the Harawa-Charawa Network, a network of Harawa-Charawa bonded labour survivors representing the needs of their communities and advocating to end bonded labour. The network has gone from strength to strength over the past few years and now has chapters in three districts as well as a national-level committee.

Hotspot Annual Reports: