Crossing continents. (Part I)

Seven months in and an opportunity to ‘revisit’ my first impressions of Nepal, this time through someone else’s eyes. For the last couple of weeks I’ve had Lesley visiting, and aside from a bit of travelling to places that I’ve not previously been to, (more of which later), its evident that for me the paradigm of what is ‘normal’ has well and truly shifted. The description of Kathmandu in my first blog entry, (here if anyone wants to re-read), is still pretty accurate, but random livestock, a pretty anarchic traffic system, noise and pollution are now nothing out of the ordinary…and in truth its really good to revisit some of the major tourist spots of the city without getting lost, and actually knowing something about them already.

Swayembunath. John Callaway 2010

Swayembunath. John Callaway 2010

So….a couple of my favourite photographs from Lesley’s time in Kathmandu, before the usual detour into ruminations about Nepal….

Tea Break. John Callaway 2010

Tea Break. John Callaway 2010

Child labour…. Friends, (thanks Jimi & Jo), were able to get tickets for us to see  1974 AD, a Nepali rock band, playing a gig raising awareness and funds to address the problems of child labour in Nepal.

A few facts:

1.660 million children (26.6 per cent) out of the total 6.225 million children aged between 5 and 14 years in the country are economically active.

The majority (94.7 per cent, 1.576 million) of economically active children are engaged in the agriculture sector, mostly as unpaid family workers and partly as forced labour attached to their parents under debt bondage or similar other exploitative labour. Besides agriculture, working children are mainly involved in the services sector,communications and transportation sector and  brickworks.

It is estimated that there are 127,143 children working in the worst forms of child labour — as bonded labourers, ragpickers, porters, domestic workers, in mines, in the carpet sector, and being trafficked. The children involved in these forms of child labour start working between the ages of 10 and 14. In addition, more than one-third of them are illiterate, and a majority are school dropouts, who have been brought to their present workplace by their parents or relatives. Nepal, the vast majority of children work in urban areas.

Source: International Labour Organisation Website

1974 AD with Deep Shrestha. (Garden Of Dreams, Kathmandu). John Callaway 2010

1974 AD with Deep Shrestha. (Garden Of Dreams, Kathmandu). John Callaway 2010

I’ve written the following paragraph before, but at the risk of over simplifying things, the root cause is undoubtedly poverty and the need to earn by whatever means sufficient to stay alive…

“… a stark reminder of the current situation for many of the population in post conflict Nepal. Fifty-four percent of Nepal’s population lives on less than US$1.25 per day, and three and a half million people are considered moderately to severely food insecure, counting Nepal among the poorest countries in South Asia. The 2009 Human Development Index ranks Nepal at 144 out of 182 countries. Hunger and malnutrition have emerged as a ‘silent crisis’ in Nepal.  Three and a half million people in Nepal today are considered moderately to severely food-insecure.  Ongoing political deadlock and instability combined with frequent droughts and floods and sustained high food price inflation have compounded endemic factors, leading to increased vulnerability to food insecurity in the country.  With the inflation rate at 18% as of May 2010, food prices have surpassed those at the height of the 2008 international food crisis, placing those already vulnerable to food insecurity at an even greater risk …”

To be continued…

One response to “Crossing continents. (Part I)

  • Volunteering Info - Martin J.

    Hi John,

    These are truly mind opening figures, and if I am to be completely honest the problem of child labour in Nepal is bigger than I would have liked to think. The fact that it starts so early is hard for a westerner like myself to imagine, I don’t quite see how anyone as young as five could hold a ‘job’.

    It’s actually quite a coincident that I came on here and read this as I was considering to write an article about child labour myself. If you wouldn’t mind me asking a question, I would love to hear what you think independent volunteers might be able to contribute? That is, not ISV volunteers such as yourself, but primarily those who come over and work for small, local, volunteer organisations. Have you come across any?`Any thoughts as to whether they are helpful, a hindrance, or if more opportunities need to be opened up for them?

    No worries whatsoever if you’re too busy, of course! Hope all is well.



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