Plan International USA Ambassador and MSNBC Journalist Richard Lui visited Nepal in August to better understand the important work Plan and its partners are doing in the country.
Richard’s journey took him to a trafficking checkpoint at the Indian border, child clubs and girls’ clubs, a street performance aimed at ending child trafficking, a new school, and a pregnant women’s group. As a journalist, he set out to tell the story of trafficking and child marriage in Nepal – and Plan’s work to prevent it. During his first full day in the country, Richard sat down with Plan anti-trafficking experts in the country’s Nepal headquarters.
On the Nepal-India border, Plan works with local authorities to prevent children from encountering harmful situations that might result in trafficking.
Plan’s experts intervene when a child is unaccompanied or a group crossing the border is flagged as suspicious. Records are kept and the initiative regularly prevents vulnerable children from a devastating situation.
The trafficking booth is part of Plan’s Action Against Child Trafficking project.
Richard visited a Girls and Boys Group and had the opportunity to meet participants in the Plan-run class, which aims to bring girls and boys together to discuss topics and issues they wouldn’t otherwise cover during the school day.
Child rights, social values, gender, reproductive health, life style and health, communication, married life and accountable parents, and human trafficking are all topics.
Once the girls and boys complete the classes, they usually work for positive social change in their community by coming together to fight child marriage or keep children in school, for example.
Child Clubs provide a similar forum for children in their communities.
In the district Richard visited, there are 378 child clubs, with around 12,000 children as members who are actively engaged in promoting their rights, often working with government leaders to enact social change.
It was clear during Richard’s visit to a Child Club the important role young people play in bettering their communities.
Drama is one of the most popular means of communication for communities in Nepal.
Richard attended a street drama performance organized by young people. Most of the community came out to see the show, which focused on two parents who sold off their daughter into marriage.
Keeping boys and girls in school is vital to preventing trafficking and child marriage, and to developing stronger, more vibrant communities.
After a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake destroyed a Nepalese school in 2015, Plan joined with community members to build an “earthquake-resistant” school, complete with computers and boys’ and girls’ bathrooms. The school is one of 25 post-earthquake schools Plan has helped build.
Richard joined school administrative staff and teachers to plant a tree near the newly-constructed building.
A healthy start to life is also key to program work in Nepal.
About 43 percent of women in Nepal give birth at home without skilled birth attendants. Richard visited a Pregnant Women’s Group, which has been implemented in 15 districts in Nepal and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Through the project, female community volunteers are trained to run monthly meetings for pregnant women in their community. Information is dispersed about danger signs, symptoms during pregnancy, and newborn care.
Despite Plan’s projects and programs focused on protecting and empowering girls, Nepal is still fraught with many challenges – most notably child trafficking and child marriage.
Richard interviewed a girl who, despite being only in her early 20s, was already married with two children. He took some time following the interview to discuss the issue with Plan staff.
Richard has worked as a Plan ambassador since 2013, focusing largely on gender equality and child trafficking.
His report on his time in Nepal will run on MSNBC in late September.