Urmila

by Because I am a Girl

Urmila is a 22 year old former Kamalari (a child servant) and a women’s activist from Nepal. Urmila comes from a family of bonded, landless farmers. Her family was so poor that they sold her to work as a Kamalari for 40 dollars a year when she was 6 years old.

Like so many other girls of Urmila’s Tharu ethnic group, she was forced to leave her community and work in conditions of often extreme exploitation without any personal compensation in the house of a rich and prosperous family in the capital of Kathmandu. Urmila remained in the Kamalari system of forced child servitude for 11 years.

In 2007, and at the age of 17, Urmila was finally freed. Then, with the help of international and local NGOs, Urmila’s dream finally came true: she was able to start school. Urmila is now attending ninth grade of a private English high school.

From the moment she gained freedom, Urmila decided she had to fight for the many Kamalari girls, who still live in slavery. In December 2007, she was elected the first president of the Common Forum for Kamalari Freedom (CFKF), an organization founded by girls and women to fight for their own rights. Urmila and a delegation of girls travelled several times to see the President, the Prime Minister and other important people in Kathmandu to claim financial support for the education of the ex-Kamalari girls.

Urmila writes and organizes street dramas in the villages to raise the awareness of girls and their parents. She is a role model for the thousands of ex-Kamalari girls and like an older sister to the more than 100 girls from the age of eight to 20, who were unable to return to their families.

Her parents were Kamaya, bonded laborers, as were many landless farmers from the ethnic group of the Tharu. Urmila has 3 older brothers, 2 older sisters, and 1 younger brother. Her grandmother, her mother, her sisters, her aunt — all women in her family have worked as a Kamalari. However, Urmila has vowed to be the last.

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