KAMAIYAS IN NEPAL

Bonded labour is a problem that plagues South Asia, according to a new report from the International Labour Organization. But the government of Nepal recently freed those who had been trapped in what is known as the Kamaiya system. ILO TV reports.

Date issued: 12 October 2001 | Size/duration: 00:02:48 (6.86 MB)

Bonded labour is a problem that plagues South Asia, according to a new report from the International Labour Organization. But the government of Nepal recently freed those who had been trapped in what is known as the Kamaiya system. ILO TV reports.

Makeshift camps like these dot Nepal's western territory. Far from the loss of home, they represent for most of their residents the first home of their own since birth. These people are former Kamaiyas, farm workers who were bought and trapped with their families in a lifetime of servitude. A year ago, they were freed by government decree.

Hingu Tharu, former Kamaiya

"No matter where we go to work, we have a place to come to sleep. No one can throw us from here or tell us to get out. Now at least I sleep in my own house."

A new report from the International Labour Organization, the ILO, says that bonded labour is a major problem particularly in South Asia. But some countries such as India, Pakistan and Nepal are taking strong measures to eliminate it.

Patrick Daru, ILO

"You can consider the Kamaiya system as a prison. And everything was done by the landlord to keep everybody inside a prison..so then you have them in a prison and you can do whatever you want and you can exploit them to the extent that you wish."

Some managed to escape the system even before it was outlawed. These women found an ILO sponsored micro-finance program was their ticket to a new life.

Woman

"We did not want to stay. But if we left, we did not know where to go and if we stayed, we would be bonded again so we thought and thought and thought and planned and we heard about the credit scheme so we took a loan of 5'000 Nepali rupees and opened a shop and left being a kamaiya."

Phaku Tharu

"I had also planned to leave. Then I thought clearly about it again and the landlord said that if you leave, you have to clear your debt. If you leave, you have to repay, the landlord said. So because of that, I had to stay back."

There are many still waiting to start a life of freedom. But at least for men like Phaku Tharu, there is hope...