The women that were 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 in risk of being forced to sell their bodies to earn a living from a very young age, many even before their first menstruation. They are 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, 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 are often designated to a life of slavery and easily become victims of sexual abuse. It was horrible to hear stories of rape, coercion and exploitation and to realize that this ethnic group from birth was destined to this life.
The question arose, 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 the girls can grow up in a safe environment and receive care and education. This is how the work to save girls from 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 Out of Ashes, LHFN also partners with a number of International organizations. The work has had an explosive growth since the first home was started. Today there are 680 girls and boys staying at the homes. Some have been rescued directly out of the brothels, others come from poor families and have been given a chance of a better life. 235 girls and 50 boys come from the Badi minority, the rest come from other people groups.
The work consists today of both preventive measures for girls and boys living in poor conditions or vulnerable to becoming victims, as well as direct rescue work from the brothels. The vision is to create Safe Homes where girls (and boys) can experience security, love and care, and where help can be provided with long-term education, vocational training, creating jobs for them when they grow up. In this way they can meet a better future.
“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.