A few months ago we announced the launch of a new joint project with Pipal Tree: The Children’s Protection and Women Empowerment Programme. The planning started in December 2020 and after a few months looking for an appropriate building to welcome the kids, hiring new members of team and training them to get them prepared for their new roles, we finally started off the programme.
We began with finding a house that would be safe for girls who have been victims of gender-based violence such as rape, domestic violence, trafficking and any other trauma that requires specialist support. The plan was to open a transit home also for the rescued boys, but we have decided to delay the opening of this shelter. Currently we can help boys who need assistance by referring them to our centres in Birgunj. Also, we are trying to do more research and plan how to best reach all the children in Province 2 that need emergency support. The new shelter for boys will most probably be opened at the beginning of 2022, depending on the final findings of our research.
At the same time of the launch of the programme, we started building stronger relationships with the local community social workers, with the communities as well as the authorities, so that everyone on the territory would know about us and would be informed about the services we are providing.
The project is now fully operational and any girls that need emergency assistance are referred to us by the police and children authorities.
– A shelter for the girls that have been brought to our safe house by the police, referred to us by social workers or have been in direct contact with our staff. Refuge is offered to those girls who need a safe place to stay, girls who have experienced trauma and need counselling, girls who have nowhere else to go, who have no family that can provide them with protection and support.
So far, we have helped 34 girls through the shelter, mostly linked back with their close or extended families. However, we already have a list of new cases that we are working on.
– Counselling: all the girls that are referred to us, which means not only those who are staying win our shelter but also those that we help within the community, are being assessed by our counsellor straightaway and most of them keep receiving regular counselling. The counselling is feeding into a long-term support as the kind of development we roll out for the girls is based on that.
– Medical assistance: all girls are getting a health check-up upon joining us and many are provided with a medical follow-up.
– Classes and activities at the shelter. The majority of the girls staying with us cannot attend regular school due to safety reasons or due to the trauma they have experienced. Hence, we provide them with in-house classes to ensure their development. The classes vary depending on the age and their level of education as well as on their interests. The girls are being kept busy with extra-curricular activities: arts, crafts, sport, music and recently knitting has been a big hit. The girls have started now planning to set up a knitting workshop! We are now exploring a new option in terms of their education, and we are hiring a new teacher.
– Legal support. So far, our staff has been ensuring that all correct paperwork has been filed by the families and the police for those cases of rape or violence, so that the offender can be brought to justice. These trials can take a very long time: quite often, when the perpetrator is from a high caste or influential family, the police is not keen on intervening, or the families of the girls are too scared to file any charges. Our staff is assisting these families as well as pushing the police to take action when it is necessary. We are planning to expand our legal support as part of the project in the next few months.
– Outreach Work: our field and social workers are spending a lot of their time investigating cases of girls referred to us by the community social workers. They are also reaching out to communities to ensure all the girls know who to contact for help.
– Training and future support. The training offered to the girls we help and who are ready and keen on learning new skills, are based on the counselling finding as well as on the girls interests and abilities.
– Brick factories and kilns – We became aware that nearly 100 girls as young as 6 years old were working at various brick factories in a specific area. The factories have been closed throughout the rainy season and are now going to reopen in November. Our staff is in touch with the local communities in that area and has started running a thorough investigation in this period. We are now gathering information across different areas in Province 2 as it seems that most of the brick factories in this region employ very young children. Once we complete our first-hand investigation, we will assess how best we can help these children and their families. The issue is huge and very complexed and so it will require a lot of planning and funding.