Free Kamalaris are becoming self-reliant in DangThe Freed Kamalari Development Forum, an organisation formed by former kamalaris, has been providing monetary assistance and income-generating skill training to freed kamalaris to make them financially independent.
Namita Chaudhary of Bagarapur in Rapti Rural Municipality, who was a former kamalari, an indentured girl child labourer, is preparing to start a business. She recently underwent training to be a cook which has enabled her to look into starting something on her own.
“I had spent my childhood working as domestic help. But now I am opting for various income-generating ideas through skills and training. I have received training to operate a hotel. Finally, I don’t have to rely on others for survival,” said Namita.
Namita had stayed in Ghorahi, the district headquarters of Dang, for 18 days to complete her training. Like Namita, other 31 former kamalaries of western Tarai received the same training. The Freed Kamalari Development Forum, a joint effort of former kamalaris, trained them and also provided utensils worth Rs 15,000-Rs 21,000 and Rs 25,000 cash to each of them to operate a hotel.
Sabitri Chaudhary of Bansgadhi in Bardiya said she had to endure hardships and face humiliation in society due to her poor economic condition. “Despite such hurdles, I did not give up on my struggle. Now that I have received the training, I’m confident enough to start a business,” said Sabitri.
Geeta Chaudhary of Dangisharan said that she too will run an eatery in her own village with the help she has received. Geeta said, “We have been trained to prepare various snacks and meals and also received utensils and cash to operate a business.”
The government declared Kamaiyas free back in July 2000. Sushila Chaudhary, treasurer of the Freed Kamalari Development Forum, said that they have been providing training to former kamalaris to make them self reliant and show them the way to financial independence. She said, “The forum has been advocating for the education, employment and empowerment of former kamalaris.”
According to Sushila, freed kamalaris constructed a three-storey building at Chaughera in Ghorahi at a cost of around Rs 9.7 million. The building is where the training and the programmes for the Kamalaris are conducted. She said, “The construction was completed some four months ago. The government provided Rs 8 million under the Tarai-Madhes Prosperity Programme and the rest while the former kamalaris put together the remaining amount from their own savings.”
Sunita Chaudhary, the central chairperson of the forum, said freed Kamalaris gather in the building and prepare various plans and policies to launch various income-generating programmes. “We did not have our own houses in the past. The building now not only works as a place of learning for us, but as our identity,” said Sunita. “Many friends have initiated their own businesses by learning various skills here. The number of the former kamalaris who have become self-reliant is gradually increasing.”
According to Sunita, around 50 percent of the income the forum generates by providing training and skills is spent on managing the building, and the other 50 percent is used to assist former kamalaris who need help.
Forty-three cooperatives have been established in five western Tarai districts for the upliftment of the economic status of former kamalaris. According to the forum, around Rs95 million has been mobilised through the cooperatives to uplift the status of the freed kamalaris. Some former kamalaris have started their own businesses by taking a loan from the cooperatives.
As many as 9,661 former kamalaris are members of the forum now. Three hundred and thirty-one people have received short-term training for income generation so far. And from a total of 270 people who received long-term training by the forum, 72 are working in various institutions currently.