Kidasha, an organisation working for the better future of severely disadvantaged children living in crisis and chronic poverty in Nepal, has called for concerted efforts to provide better protection and development opportunities for at risk Nepali children especially in the rapidly growing, sprawling urban centres.
Addressing a reception hosted by MP Virendra Sharma at the House of Commons last week, Chief Executive of Kidasha, Janice Miller, said despite recent political achievements, Nepal remains the second poorest country in Asia where almost 25% of the population exist on less than 50p per day. “Nepal is one of the fastest urbanising countries in Asia, unfortunately it is totally unplanned and as the number of migrants to the cities increase so does, the pressure on already inadequate services, the number and size of slum populations, the negative impact on the environment and the inherent risk of violence and crime,” said Miller.
Speaking on the theme, Transforming Urban Poverty into National Prosperity for Nepal, Ms Miller said, “Pokhara where our office and much of our work is based is growing at 7% annually compared to the national average growth of 1.35% per annum. Such a growth largely driven by migration in response to the extraordinary investment in tourism, fuelled by the promise of a new international airport. So whilst on one hand positive, without effective planning and regulation, it increases the risk of even more children being employed in hotels and restaurants for little or no pay and more girls being lured into CSEC situations within the entertainment sector,” she added.
Ms Miller insisted that in order to avoid the risk of an increased wealth gap, inequality, social disruption and a continued exodus of its workforce overseas, Nepal urgently needs to find ways to encourage local economic development, innovative local entrepreneurs, local employers committed to train and develop more skilled workers and increased production and consumption of Nepal made products and services.
Ms Miller said that Kidasha has been providing alternative learning opportunities for working children and other out of school children via drop in centres as well as via outreach in children’s workplaces. “This includes a new functional literacy course which aims to improve literacy and numeracy. Initial results from the pilot were very encouraging with average improvement in pre and post course assessment scores of 53%,” she added.
She said that Kidasha is also working intensively with local employers, persuading them not to employ children under 14 years old. “In fact we have reduced the number of working children in our target district by 73% over the last four years. But there still is more to be done. We also work with employers to improve working conditions and benefits and also workplace health and safety of their young employees. Even more exciting is the work we are doing to encourage employers to improve the training and learning opportunities they provide for their employees. We have also had considerable success influencing local government and communities particularly in developing local child protection systems,” she added.
Ms Miller further said we don’t invest in infrastructure or other tangible items; instead we invest in developing local skills and capability. Admittedly that make it even more difficult to access funds as many people are averse to investing in staff preferring instead to provide tangible commodities or fund infrastructure projects. “I often say to people that new pair of shoes will not change a child’s life but giving them the support of a trained social worker and/or access to alternative learning opportunities will . Building another school is not much use if it has no pupils because their parents cannot afford the additional costs or don’t see the value of education, sending their children to work instead, so instead why not consider providing alternative education opportunities for young people in their workplaces,” she added.
Addressing the function, Member of British Parliament and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Nepal, Virendra Sharma, lauded the exemplary work being carried out by Kidasha in Nepal. He called upon the newly installed government of Nepal to work more for the betterment of children, especially vulnerable children, in the country. Saying that he had visited Nepal five times over the last ten years, Mr Sharma said if you provide quality education and right skills to today’s children, they will build their country on their own.
The event was attended by Kidasha trustees, supporters, businessmen, Nepali community leaders and journalists.