The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

JUNE 10, 2011


Film seeks to prevent child slavery in Nepal

The Day My God Died” portrays the plight of young women facing abduction and slavery in Nepal.
 
By R.J. MARX

Katonah’s Dan Linden graduated from the Manhattan School of Music and had a taste for adventure. In between a summer job as an Adirondacks white-water rafting guide, he headed to Katmandu, Nepal, a city of 4 million at the foot of the Himalayas.

As an English and music teacher at the Chelsea International College, he watched a presentation by a group called Maiti Nepal, a film so powerful that it inspired him to promote aid for the organization back home in Katonah. The film, “The Day My God Died,” will be presented at the Katonah Village Library on Tuesday, June 14, at 6 p.m.

Maiti Nepal was born out of a crusade to protect Nepali girls and women from crimes like domestic violence, trafficking for flesh trade, child prostitution, child labor and various forms of exploitation and torture.

A group of socially committed professionals including teachers, journalists and social workers together formed Maiti Nepal in 1993 with the focus on preventing trafficking for forced prostitution, rescuing flesh trade victims and rehabilitating them. This social organization also actively works to find justice for the victimized girls and women by engaging in criminal investigation and waging legal battles against the criminals. It has highlighted the trafficking issue with its strong advocacy from the local to national and international levels.

“In Mumbai alone there are approximately 200,000 forced sex slaves working there under horrific conditions,” said Mr. Linden. “Most of them are coming from rural Nepal where they are lured, a lot of times by people they know, tricked or even drugged and put on a bus where they will be intensely beaten and raped into forced prostitution. This is a problem that exists all over the world. It could be someone the girls know and gains their trust, or a relative. This is happening at a rate of about 15 people a day.”

Maiti Nepal — which literally means “Mother’s Home” — performs rescues, prevention programs, advocacy programs, and helps women who may be stranded at borders. “If they get out of the situation in India, at the border, they don’t know what to do,” Mr. Linden said. “Maiti Nepal will help them.”

Inside Nepal, the group knows what to look for in how traffickers operate, and works with police at checkpoints to prevent abductions. Some women rescued by the group are infected with HIV. Once in the care of Maiti Nepal, they’re offered rehabilitation at about a dozen shelters around the country.

As part of its prevention strategy, Maiti Nepal also reaches out to the community with programs to attack the root cause of trafficking — ignorance. Rural Nepalese girls learn about trafficking so that they can avoid being tricked by strangers who come to their village and try to lure them.

Involvement of young people as educators through plays, talk programs, discussions, songs and real-life stories not only gives trafficking a human face but it also helps to reduce stigma and discrimination by providing a forum for community members to discuss the issue and build shared accountability for preventative action.

“The Day My God Died” tells the stories of Gina, sold into sexual slavery at age 7, raped by 14 men and beaten with sticks and aluminum rods; Anita, lured by a friend, then drugged and sold to a brothel at age 12, where she was beaten and threatened with being buried alive; Maili, trafficked at age 19 along with her infant daughter who was seized and used as “insurance” to keep Maili from fleeing; and Jyoti, sold at age 12, raped, choked and forced to drink alcohol to break down her resistance.

At the June 14 screening, founders of the American group Friends of Maiti Nepal will be in attendance and speaking. Brigitte Cazalis-Collins has directed and implemented major outreach projects assisting refugees and women both in the U.S. and in Nepal. In the U.S. Ms. Cazalis-Collins was a member of the founding board of the Tibetan Resettlement Project, which provided sponsors, housing, employment and counseling to Tibetan families who immigrated to the U.S. under the Immigration Act of 1992. Since 2001, she has devoted her efforts to representing Maiti Nepal in the United States, focusing on fundraising and increasing awareness of the problem of sex trafficking.

Co-founder Joseph H. Collins has worked for many years as an economic adviser to various government ministries and the Central Bank of Nepal on a pro bono basis. His company, J. H. Collins and Associates, together with the Harvard Law School Program on International Financial Systems and KPMG, have written and supervised the passage of legislation in Nepal to encourage foreign investment and economic development.

More information about the organizations can be found at www.friendsofmaitinepal.org and www.maitinepal.org.


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