The women that was the reason for starting Out of Ashes come from the Badi people, an ethnic group who live in absolute poverty in Nepal’s western parts. They are Dhalits, “Untouchables” – the lowest of the lowest in the Hindu caste system, and perhaps the most marginalized group in Nepal. Their fate is to be born into a life of extreme poverty without education, health and social status. But most frightening is the fact that most of the women and girls are forced to sell their bodies to earn a living from a very young age, many even before their first menstruation. They are extremely vulnerable to sex trafficking and exploitation, more than any other ethnic group in Nepal.
How it started
In February 2009, Håkan Gabrielsson from Out of Ashes (Singapore) visited two Badi villages in western Nepal together with Raju Sundas, the leader of Lighthouse Foundation Nepal (LHFN). In the villages they met many women and children and saw their extreme poverty and social misery and vulnerability. They realized that most girls and women, if not all, would within a few years be abused and sexually exploited. Because of the caste system, poverty, and their cultural background they have no other destiny in life than to be born into slavery and become victims of sexual abuse. It was horrible to hear stories of rape, coercion and exploitation, and realize that this ethnic group from birth was destined to this life.
The question arose of course, what could be done to stop this exploitation and rescue the girls from the sex trade? The answer was to start the first Badi Girls Home, which took place in December 2009 in the capital of Kathmandu. There they can now grow up in a safe environment and receive care and education. This is how the work to save girls from sex-trafficking was born.
LHFN is a Nepalese NGO (non-government non-profit organization) approved and registered with the Government of Nepal for work with education and health care among the poor and vulnerable children in the country. LHFN is engaged in fighting injustice and sexual exploitation especially among the Badi people in Nepal.
How has the work developed?
In the six years since the work started, LHFN have received several partners in several countries. Apart from partnering with Out of Ashes, LHFN also partner with a number of other international organizations. One could say that a seed was planted and more and more people water the seed and now it is growing fast. The work has had an explosive growth since the first home was started. At the time of writing, there are now more than 680 girls and boys escaping from a life worse than anyone of us can imagine.
The work consists of both preventive measures for girls as young as five years from becoming victims, and of saving girls who are already sexually abused and slaves in brothels. The vision is to create Safe Homes where girls can experience security, love and care, and where help can be provided with long-term education, vocational training and creating jobs for them when they grow up. In this way they can avoid being forced into sexual exploitation.
“Research shows that educating girls is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do” – Girl Rising
To break the vicious circle of poverty and sexual exploitation of the Badi people and change their future, all the girls living in the girls’ homes in Kathmandu, receive a very fine education.
Light House Foundation opened in April 2012 Christian Community School in Kathmandu with the help of partners from Australia. Nepal’s Education Minister was present to inaugurate the school. It already has more than 800 students from grades 1 to 10, and it will gradually be expanded with more classes.