Locals hit the trail to help girls

As little as two weeks worth of labour and an amazing opportunity to try trekking in Nepal will help keep hundreds of girls out of slavery, according to a Kelowna-based human rights organization.

  • Sep. 6, 2011 5:00 a.m.

As little as two weeks worth of labour and an amazing opportunity to try trekking in Nepal will help keep hundreds of girls out of slavery, according to a Kelowna-based human rights organization.

The Inter-cultural Women’s Education Network has teamed with Edgecomb Builders on a unique build-a-classroom project and is looking for people willing to invest a little time and effort to help keep women and girls in Nepal out of bonded labour.

By helping expand a school in the Dang Province of Nepal, the local builder and IWEN are hoping to keep more young girls, who might otherwise be turned over to wealthy landowners to work to support their families, in school and vocational training.

“The organization pays their school fees and finds a sponsor to help buy a pig or a goat or some other method of making money,” said Jacqui Conroy, executive director of the Inter-cultural Women’s Education Network.

Founded in 2005, the small non-profit operates out of Kelowna Community Resources, offering simple educational programs for women who have immigrated to the area and need to get started on language training or take a basic program, like FoodSafe, to help land a first job.

Overseas, its work is more complex.

Bonded labour is one of the least known forms of slavery in the world. It generally involves a worker trying to pay off a basic debt, like the financing for seeds to grow a crop, which they never manage to pay because their wage amounts to so little.

In Nepal, Tharu families are often so poor they may not even have said debt; a parent may hand over a daughter for as little as $50 a year into a life of labour in order to feed the rest of their family.

Offering another means of earning money and the education to understand their options gives can drastically change a family’s prospects.

IWEN has already been working in the area raising funds to put girls in school and, local builder Kevin Edgecomb, and his wife LInda, have travelled to the area to help. Both parties have decided they need to expand the physical school structure, Conroy said, in order for their effort to continue to grow.

IWEN has rescued 283 girls and the school does not have nearly enough room to accommodate the 212 girls who are currently studying.

As such, a trip is being organized for next April for those interested in helping to travel overseas and build additional space.

Volunteers will need to come up with between $2500 and $3000 to pay their way and the group will raise $20,000 for the project. Following the work, there will be a one to two-week trek to the summit of Kalapattar in the Himalayan mountains.

An information session will run this Thursday, Sept. 8 at Edgecomb Builder office, #5 – 220 Neave Road, Kelowna beginning at 6:30 p.m.





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