Girls’ Rights Campaigner Badly Injured After Anti-slavery Demonstration Turns Violent
Plan has expressed grave concern over the use of police force in a protest in Nepal, which has left a leading young anti-slavery campaigner seriously injured.
Urmila Chaudhary, 22, a former kamalari (child servant), was taking part in a three-day sit-in at Ratna Park, Kathmandu, calling on the Nepalese government to investigate the deaths of six teenage girls, disappearance of 27, and pregnancy of 11 others, while working as kamalaris in households.
As the demonstration escalated, Plan girls’ campaign ambassador Urmila was pushed to the ground, suffering head injuries and losing consciousness. Five other girls and young women were injured, some suffering broken bones. Although this practice of bonded labor was legally abolished in Nepal in 2000, it still continues, with young girls sold as kamalaris to work in households in return for money or education.
A Plan spokesperson said: “We are very concerned at the apparent police brutality and conduct at this demonstration. There were clearly a number of young girls present and their conduct should be swiftly and thoroughly investigated by the authorities. “These cases have touched a real nerve in Nepal and feelings are running very high. We call for calm and encourage the government to keep an open, peaceful dialogue with the protesters on this emotive and important issue which is at the center of girls’ and children’s rights in the country.”
Urmila was sold as a kamalari when she was just six years-old and found herself trapped in the system for 11 years, working tirelessly around the clock without ever earning a penny. Urmila managed to escape when she was 17, after learning the system was illegal and, with the help of Plan International and partners, she was able to gain an education.
Since then, Urmila has been fighting for the many kamalari girls caught up in this practice. She is the first President of the Common Forum for Kamalari Freedom—an organization founded by girls and women to fight for their own rights—and regularly meets with the Nepalese President and ministers in Kathmandu to campaign for support for the education of ex-kamalari girls.
Urmila is also a key part of Plan International’s Kamalari Abolition Project. Launched in 2005, the project has helped free many hundreds of young girls and enables them to return home by helping parents earn a livelihood, so they don’t feel pressured to send their child out to work. The project also helps rescued girls reach their full potential, by providing them with educational support and livelihood programs.
Last year, Urmila was a key speaker at the inaugural UN International Day of the Girl launch in New York where she was an ambassador for Plan’s Because I am a Girl campaign. She is currently being monitored in a Nepalese hospital where doctors say that she is in stable condition.
Footage of the demonstration can be seen here.