Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. The average family scrapes by on $210 a year. So poor families often look to more drastic ways to earn money to get by. For some this means selling their daughters into domestic slavery for a mere $40 a year. Domestic slavery is illegal in Nepal, but the tradition still thrives in the country's western districts. These girls live in poor conditions, often working long hours and rarely having the opportunity to go to school. National Geographic recently posted a story on one of its blogs about the plight of these indentured girls and one organization's work to help them return home.
The Nepalese Youth Opportunity Foundation, or NYOF, has been working to eliminate domestic slavery in western Nepal since 2000. They certainly aren't the only group working on this problem - but they're using an inventive approach. NYOF volunteers travel to villages and offer parents a deal: if they don't sell their daughters into slavery, NYOF will give them a baby goat or pig.
In their first year 32 of 37 families accepted NYOF's offer. They'll also pay for school uniforms and school fees for that girl for several years to improve the likelihood that she won't be sold back into slavery. Since then, the NYOF and other organizations it has trained have brought over 10,000 girls home. And in one district slavery is gone. It costs the group about $100 per girl, per year to do this.
Many of the organization's most active volunteers are girls that were rescued from slavery though this program. Some of these girls run awareness campaigns to discourage parents from selling their daughters into domestic slavery. They also put on street plays and produce a weekly radio program to increase awareness within their community. (About two years ago PBS's NOW series profiled NYOF and showed footage of volunteers capturing large crowds with their street plays.)
Though slavery remains a problem in many areas of the world, the success of the NYOF shows just how far awareness and economic incentives can go to eradicate an age-old injustice.