Young children in developing and conflict-ridden nations remain the most economically, socially, and politically marginalized individuals on this planet. These children are often forced to work at the expense of getting any sort of formal education. June 12 is the annual World Day Against Child Labour. The goal of this initiative is to “shine a spotlight on the global need to improve the safety and health of young workers,” as well as to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) goal of eliminating all forms of child labor by 2025.
The World Day Against Child Labour exists as a reminder of the obligations that nation-states and individuals have under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), which includes: the right to be protected from exploitation and harmful work, the right to be protected from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse, and the right to be protected from physical or mental violence.
Children in Nepal work in in dangerous conditions in brickyards, carpet factories, and quarries, or in agricultural and domestic work. Nepali children are also vulnerable to being trafficked to India. Due to administrative and school-related fees, poor children in Nepal are at risk of forgoing an education and laboring in these dangerous conditions.
This is why The Advocates for Human Rights has worked since 1999 to end child labor in the Sankhu-Palubari community in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley. The Sankhu-Palubari Community School (SPCS) in Nepal provides a free education — from pre-K through grade 10 — to the neediest children in this rural Kathmandu Valley area. Founded by The Advocates for Human Rights and operated in partnership with Educate the Children-Nepal and the local community, the school provides a high quality education as a genuine alternative to child labor and offers a brighter future to those in need. The school currently serves 353 students and has achieved gender parity as 52% of the students are girls. Students also receive a daily meal and health and dental check-ups.
The Advocates for Human Rights supports SPCS through private donations. It costs only $250 to educate a child for one year. On this World Day Against Child Labour, please consider supporting the school and helping a child receive an education, escape child labor, and end the cycle of poverty.
Schools, businesses, and community organizations can also help by raising awareness about the problem of child labor. To become involved or for more information, contact The Advocates for Human Rights at 612-341-3302 or Hrights@advrights.org
By Ryan Atkinson, a University of Minnesota student majoring in Political Science. He is a 2018 Don Fraser Human Rights Fellow with the International Justice Program of The Advocates for Human Rights.
“The world, if left to its own devices, is balanced evenly between good and bad. Each of us has the ability to tip it.” Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
Especially today, with the horrific news of the Orlando mass shooting capturing people’s attention, a ray of optimism is needed. That beam of light was mighty and bright at our Human Rights Awards Dinner this month when we celebrated and honored people who are tipping the world in the right direction.
Don & Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award
Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, received the esteemed Don & Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award for his work investigating and exposing some of the world’s most egregious human rights violations. The Advocates’ connection to Mr. Heyns’ work as a special rapporteur began in the 1980s when The Advocates developed the groundbreaking Minnesota Protocol, the first set of international guidelines for investigating suspicious unlawful deaths. Effective investigation is key to establishing responsibility and holding perpetrators accountable, but no international standards existed at the time that required governments to initiate or carry out investigations of suspected unlawful deaths. Read some of Mr. Heyns’ remarks and about the Human Rights Awards Dinner.
The UN adopted the Minnesota Protocol in 1991 with the official title, UN Manual on the Effective Prevention of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions. The manual, widely known as the Minnesota Protocol, has been used in myriad investigative contexts in almost every region of the world. Last year, Mr. Heyns asked The Advocates to help update the Minnesota Protocol with forensic, medical, and other advancements since the original publication. “The need for clear international standards that encompass the realities of human rights abuses in the twenty-first century has resulted in the current revision,” said Mr. Heyns.
In addition to his UN role, Heyns is professor of human rights law and director of the Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.
Special Recognition Award
David Wippman, Dean of University of Minnesota Law School, was honored with The Advocates’ 2016 Special Recognition Award in recognition of his career-long human rights work and his stewardship in the creation of the University of Minnesota Law School’s pioneering Center for New Americans.
The only program of its kind in the United States, the Center was designed to expand urgently needed legal services for non-citizens, pursue litigation to improve our nation’s immigration laws, and educate non-citizens about their rights. The Center has already seen notable successes, including a victory at the U.S. Supreme Court. The Center is made possible through a partnership between The Law School, The Advocates, Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, and the law firms of Faegre Baker Daniels, Robins Kaplan, and Dorsey & Whitney.
“We honor Dean Wippman for changing the world and Minnesota for good and leaving our community a better place,” said Robin Phillips, The Advocates’ executive director.
Volunteer Recognition Awards
Mary Ellen Alden
Since Mary Ellen Alden began volunteering with The Advocates in 2012, she has represented 15 asylum seekers, including women fleeing domestic violence in Honduras and Ethiopia; political activists from Togo, Syria, and Ethiopia; and Oromo activists from Ethiopia. Her passion for justice for her clients is unparalleled.
For his bar mitzvah, Thomas Dickstein asked for donations to support The Advocates’ Sankhu-Palubari Community School in Nepal. When he traveled to Nepal and connected with the school’s students, he returned home fired up. Over time, Thomas led a book and backpack drive for the school, developed a PowerPoint presentation and a video to convince others about the school’s need and success. “Thomas sets a great example for all of us,” said Robin Phillips, The Advocates’ executive director. “Imagine what a world we would have if everyone followed his lead.”
Gray Plant Mooty
Led by attorneys Max Schott and Dean Eyler, the pro bono team at Gray Plant Mooty has taken on complex cases involving female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and levirate marriage (a widow forced to marry her deceased husband’s brother). Many of the cases required additional fact-finding and expert documentation to understand the nuanced nature of the harm their clients suffered and the cultural context of the country in which it occurred.
Their litigation expertise allowed them to draw out critical facts from the clients and piece together the claims in ways the court could understand. “We’re thankful for the team’s commitment, and we’re proud to count them among our volunteer award recipients,” said Sarah Brenes, director of The Advocates’ Refugee & Immigrant Program. The team includes Joy Anderson, Ashley Bailey, Sandra Bodeau, Nancy Quattlebaum Burke, Brian Dillon, Elizabeth Dillon, Dean Eyler, Hallie Goodman, Karli Hussey, Monica Kelley, Leah Leyendecker, Megan Martin, Craig Miller, Brianna Mooty, Max Schott, Amanda Sicoli, Nicole Strydom, Matthew Webster, and Scott Wick; and paralegals Jodee Marble, Tammy Mayer, and Gayle Schaub.
Henok Gabisa & Stinson Leonard Street
When Henok Gabisa asked The Advocates to submit a complaint to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, The Advocates turned for help to Theresa Hughes, of Stinson Leonard Street, who assembled a fantastic team, including Neal Griffin, Marc Goldstein, Marcia Sanford, and Andrew Scavotto.
Mr. Gabisa had approached The Advocates because of Ethiopia’s persecution of Oromos, the largest ethnic group in that country. While for decades the Ethiopian government has persecuted them, the government in 2014 used lethal force to
respond to peaceful Oromo student protests. Protesters, some young teens, were arrested, detained without charge, and labeled terrorists.
Mr. Gabsia and Stinson team members in St. Louis and Washington, D.C. interviewed witnesses in the United States and abroad, prepared affidavits, tracked down first-hand information, prepared briefs, and ensured witnesses do not face retaliation. Their work to hold the Ethopian government accountable is changing the world for good.
A team of Thomson Reuters’ employees is being recognized for its research on Human Rights Council recommendations to assist with Universal Periodic Review lobbying. Members of the Thomson Reuters team include Mark Petty, Matthew Buell, Marianne Krljic, Ethan Wood, Blake Hatling, Bryan Bearss, Chelsea Reynolds, and Benjamin Petersburg.
Lobbying the UN Human Rights council is tricky. Human rights defenders need to know which countries will be receptive to certain issues, but countries’ priorities can be opaque, ever-changing. The Advocates needed a special research team, so it turned to Thomson Reuters. With a worldwide reputation for making complex legal information understandable and accessible, it is no surprise that Thomson Reuters created an amazing volunteer team to streamline The Advocates’ UN lobbying. Three times a year, team members pore through thousands of UN statements to identify countries that may be receptive to lobbying on women’s rights, the death penalty, and LGBTI rights.
“With a few clicks of the Thomson Reuters’ spreadsheet, we identify the countries to target for lobbying,” said Jennifer Prestholdt, director of The Advocates’ International Justice Program. “Their lists are spot-on, and they are changing the world for good.”
Suzanne Turner As coordinator of Dechert’s pro bono work, Suzanne Turner is central to finding eager volunteers to help The Advocates. She even recruited her school-aged daughter to blog about women’s human rights. She also traveled with The Advocates twice to the other side of the world to conduct fact-finding and to document how to strengthen Mongolia’s response to domestic violence.
“Suzie lives our mission,” said Rose Park, Director, The Advocates’ Women’s Human Rights Program.
This was the message I received from Anoop Poudel, headmaster at the Sankhu-Palubari Community School (SPCS), on Monday night. We had been desperately trying to reach Anoop and others connected with SPCS since the 7.8 earthquake devastated Nepal on Saturday, April 25. Our concern grew as the death toll mounted and the strong aftershocks continued in the Kathmandu Valley. What a relief to learn that the teachers and 340 students at the school, as well as their families, are safe!
In my role as The Advocates for Human Rights’ deputy director, I coordinate The Advocates’ Nepal School Project. I was in Nepal just a few weeks ago with a team of volunteers to conduct our annual monitoring visit. The Advocates has been partnering with the Sankhu-Palubari community since 1999 to provide education as an alternative to child labor for low-income children in the area who would otherwise be working in brick yards or in the fields.
The Sankhu-Palubari Community School provides free, high quality education to children in grades pre-K through 10. Many of the students walk a long way to get to school – some as long as two hours each way.
The students’ standardized test scores are among the highest in Nepal, a highly competitive honor. And the school was awarded Nepal’s prestigious National Education Service Felicitation Award in 2014. Graduates are now studying at universities, preparing to become doctors, social workers, teachers, and agronomists; many plan to return to their village to improve the community’s quality of life. Their contributions will be even more important now, in the aftermath of this devastating earthquake.
The school is especially important for girls, who make up 52 percent of the student body. When SPCS began, girls often left school at an early age to marry or work. Now, they are staying and graduating because families have experienced the benefits of education. (You can read the inspiring story of SPCS’ first female graduate in Kanchi’s Story.)
The new school year had just started at SPCS, but school was not in session when the earthquake hit. Students in Nepal attend school six days a week; Saturday is the only day when there is no school. Many people believe that, had it been a school day, the numbers of dead and injured in Kathmandu and throughout the Kathmandu Valley could have been much higher.
Even with that one tiny bright spot in a terrible national tragedy, UNICEF estimates that nearly one million children in Nepal were severely affected by the earthquake. Most of our students, who come from extremely poor agricultural families, are included in that number. Anoop sent me several more texts after the first, describing heavy damage in the area of the eastern Kathmandu Valley where the school is located. Media sources and other Nepali contacts also confirm extensive destruction in the Sankhu area. While we don’t have a lot of information yet, Anoop reported that he believes that more than 90 percent of the students and teachers have lost their homes in the earthquake. They are living outside in temporary shelters because of continuing aftershocks. Word about the school building’s fate is yet to be received. The first relief teams are reportedly scheduled to arrive in the area on Wednesday.
Our hearts go out to everyone in our SPCS family, as well as to the millions of other Nepalis affected by the “Black Saturday” earthquake. At The Advocates, we believe that support for basic human needs such as water, food, and medical assistance in Nepal is the most urgent need at this point in time. We encourage people to give to reputable international humanitarian assistance organizations involved in the earthquake relief effort (you can find more information in the links below). In the long term, Nepal will need sustainable rebuilding and development programs.
Because education is essential to reducing poverty and inequality, the best way that The Advocates can support the rebuilding of Nepal is to is to ensure that the education of the students at our school continues with the least amount of interruption possible. We remain focused on that goal.
December has been a terrible month for human rights—from the U.S. Senate’s report confirming the use of torture, to the slaughter of Pakastani school children, to two grand jury decisions not to indict police officers for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Overall, 2014 has been an extremely troubling year. Some human rights abuses garnered a lot of attention; many did not, taking place under the radar of the media and public conversation. Let’s consider a few examples, and let them serve as a call to action.
Boko Haram militants kidnapped 276 girls from a school in Chibok, Nigeria one night in mid-April. This travesty garnered wide media attention and support from around the world, with celebrities carrying “Bring Back Our Girls” placards and rallies demanding the girls’ return. Unfortunately, 219 girls are reported to remain in captivity. Boko Haram continued its reign of terror, and is responsible for other atrocities throughout Somalia and Nigeria during 2014, including kidnappings, mass recruitment of child soldiers, and bombings of churches and public squares. Just this month news reports surfaced that Boko Haram kidnapped at least 185 women and children and killed 32 people in northeast Nigeria.
Central American refugees―mostly children (and many by themselves)―are seeking asylum, after journeying across one of the world’s most dangerous migrant routes to escape horrific violence in their home countries. The crisis was brought to light and much of the nation was shocked when, in June, images of children being held by US authorities surfaced, showing children crowded in makeshift prisons, and crammed into rooms and sleeping on concrete floors. Instead of treating them as refugees and in accordance with internationally-recognized human rights standards, the U.S. has treated these children as national security threats, warehousing them in razor-wired prisons, detaining them in horrendous conditions, and subjecting them to expedited proceedings to deport them at warp speed and back to the life-threatening dangers they fled.
The terrorist organization ISIL has committed gruesome acts of violence that have alarmed the world community, including murdering political opposition members in mass, enslaving and brutalizing women and girls, and forcing young boys into its ranks. An August attack by ISIL in the Sinjar region caused thousands of Shiites and Yazidis to flee; in October, ISIL abducted 5,000-7,000 Yazidi women and children and sold them into slavery, reported the UN.
Grand jury decisions not to indict police officers for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner highlighted racial profiling, police brutality, and failures of the justice system throughout the country, including a police officer shooting 12-year-old Tamir Rice to death in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Ethiopian government attacked a student protest in the nation’s Oromia region in April, killing as many as 47 students, as some reports indicate. The Ethiopian government has persecuted and targeted the Oromo people for years, subjecting Oromo to abduction, mass incarceration, and extreme levels of torture, including electric shock and repeated rapes.
Nearly 200,000 people have been killed and millions more took flight because of violence in Syria―the world’s largest refugee crisis resulting from a civil war that has raged in the region following popular uprising during the Arab Spring in 2011. To date, UNHCR estimates that more than 2.5 million refugees have fled the disaster, surpassing the refugee crises in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, and Central America.
Countries took huge steps backward for rights of LGBTI communities, enacting draconian laws which punish homosexuality with prison terms, torture, and death. Members of LGBTI communities in some countries are hunted down by vigilantes and are beaten or killed. In 2014, Uganda enacted one of the most notorious laws—its “Kill the Gays” law—punishing homosexuality with life in prison. The Ugandan Constitutional Court struck down law. Unfortunately, because the court ruled on procedural grounds rather than on the merits, the court’s decision does not bar parliament from adopting an identical law in the future. And homosexuality remains a criminal act in Uganda, as it was before the new law was signed.
The U.S.’s use of drone strikes are a significant setback to international law, setting new precedents for use of force by nations around the world. As of November 2014, attempts to kill 41 people resulted in snuffing out the lives of an estimated 1,147 individuals, reports The Guardian. The U.S. has, to date, used drones to execute without trial some 4,700 people— including civilians and children—in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, all countries against whom the U.S. has not declared war, the organization Reprieve reports.
An Egyptian court sentenced 529 people to death in a mass trial in March. The next month, a court sentenced another 680 to death in a proceeding that lasted only a few minutes. These mass executions, issued by a military government than came to power in a July 2013 coup, represent some of the largest ordered executions in the last century. Activists who supported efforts to oust former President Hosni Mubarak continue to be rounded up and targeted by the military, aiming to crush political opposition and to roll back achievements made during the Arab Spring. And in November, an Egyptian court dismissed conspiracy to kill charges against Mubarak, and he was cleared of corruption charges; he will likely be freed in a few months.
Women and girls have suffered immeasurablywhere they should be safest, in their homes. Women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, motor accidents, war and malaria, according to the World Bank. On average, at least one in three women is beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused by an intimate partner in the course of her lifetime. One high profile domestic violence incident this year involved NFL player Ray Rice beating his then-fiance into unconsciousness and flattening her to the floor of an elevator. As a result of the attack, Rice was suspended for two games. When TMZ posted the video of the attack for the world to see, the NFL suspended Rice indefinitely and the Baltimore Ravens pressured his victim to apologize. Ultimately, the NFL reversed its decision to suspend Rice indefinitely in late November.
Harmful cultural practices violate women. Many governments “address” human rights violations—even the most cringe-worthy, stomach-churning―against women and girls by punishing the victims. Or—as in the case of women from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala seeking refuge in other countries—governments turn their heads to the violence, empowering the perpetrators and further victimizing and subjugating the women. These abuses include acid attacks, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, honor killings, bride burning, and gang rapes. Consider the death of Farzana Iqbal, 25, in May in Pakistan; her family stoned her to death outside a courthouse in Pakistan because she sought to marry without consent from her family a man she loved. Consider Hanna Lalango, 16, who died a month after she entered a public mini-bus in Ethiopia and was gang-raped by strangers for five days―a case similar to one in India two years ago, but one that did not garner the same level of attention and outrage. As an added note, Lalango’s father said he would not have made the case public if his daughter had lived because the shame would have shadowed her for the rest of her life.
The U.S. Senate “torture report” released on December 9 graphically details the CIA’s use of abuse, including keeping a prisoner awake for 180 hours with his hands shackled over his head, threatening to sexually assault and cut the throat of a detainee’s mother, penetrating a detainee’s anus for “rectal feeding,” and tying a prisoner to a floor until he froze to death.
Taliban militants stormed a school in Peshwar, Pakistan and killed more than 130 students in a terrorist attack on December 16 to retaliate against the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai, the young girl who caught the world’s attention for being shot for going to school. Responding to the Peshwar slaughter, Malala stated, “I, along with millions of others around the world, mourn these children, my brothers and sisters—but we will never be defeated.”
Forty-three students traveling to a protest in Mexico were rounded up and “disappeared” in September. The mayor of Iguala, Mexico in concert with local gangs ordered the capture and murder of these students, reports indicate. Federal police may also have complicity in the crime. The act has garnered widespread attention in Mexico, with people questioning the legitimacy of federal and state Mexican authorities, who for years has been corrupted by the influence of narco-traffickers and gangs.
More than 2,000 Gazans were killed when Israel launched a military operation in the Gaza strip in July to stop rocket attacks that followed an Israeli crackdown on Hamas in retaliation for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers. The disproportionate level of force used by the Israeli military resulted in large number of civilian deaths. Of the 2,192 Gazans killed, about 1523 civilians (including 519 children), 66 Israeli soldiers, five Israeli civilians (including a child), and one Thai civilian were killed, reports indicate. At the end of the conflict, 110,000 people were internally displaced and 108,000 were made homeless, according to Amnesty International.
What can we do in the face of these human rights violations and the countless others that go unnoticed? Pay attention. Look behind the headlines. Make our voices heard by public officials, leaders, and the world community. Volunteer for projects that address the issues most important to us. Support organizations such as The Advocates for Human Rights which take on the larger systemic issues that allow human rights abuses to continue. We are not helpless. In 2015, we can, by working together, move closer to our vision of a world in which all people live with dignity, freedom, justice, equality, and peace . . . because every person matters.
By: The Advocates for Human Rights’ Deepinder Mayell, Robin Phillips, Jennifer Prestholdt, and Susan Banovetz
Like many other people, I am outraged by the April 14 abduction of hundreds of young girls from their school in northeastern Nigeria by the insurgent group Boko Haram. The group attacked again on May 6, kidnapping eight more girls–this time from their homes–to prevent them from attending school. While we do not know exactly where the girls were taken or how they are being treated, it is likely that many of them will be raped and sold into sexual slavery. Some of the girls are as young as 12, and as a mother I can only imagine the nightmare the girls and their parents must be living.
I join the calls to the Nigerian government, the Obama administration, and other world leaders demanding that they do what needs to be done to free the girls and bring those responsible to justice. But bringing the girls home is only the first step in answering the contorted message the kidnappings were designed to send: that women are property and girls should not be educated.
The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, who has spoken out against the kidnappings, reportedly asserted at a conference in March that the Boko Haram insurgency is an “anomaly” in the socio-religious environment of Nigeria, where Christians and Muslims live in harmony with each other and with people of other faiths. I do not dispute that position and sincerely hope that he is right. But while extremist organizations such as Boko Haram may be anomalous in Nigerian society, the assault on girls’ education globally is not.
We live in a world where, for some girls, simply learning to read is a courageous and life-threatening act of defiance.In March 2013, a principal in Karachi, Pakistan was killed when grenades were hurled into his school, which specialized in enrolling girls. A teacher in a different part of Pakistan was gunned down in front of the all-girls school where she had taught only a week earlier. In the spring and summer of 2013, over 400 girls in Afghanistan fell ill from suspected gas poisonings in at least half a dozen schools. The assassination attempt against Malala Yousafzai for promoting girls’ education in Pakistan is well-known.
The net enrollment rate in 2008 for girls in secondary school in Nigeria was just 22%. In northern Nigeria, where the kidnappings occurred, only 3% of girls finish secondary school and more than 50% are married by the age of 16. The situation in Nigeria is sadly representative of a wider pattern. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Global Gender Gap Report, girls in Pakistan had a secondary school enrollment rate of 29%, as compared to 40% for boys. Rates are even lower in Chad, where only 5% of girls received a secondary education, as compared to 16% of boys. Nor is the problem endemic only to countries with a majority Muslim population. In Nepal, school enrollment rates for boys are 14 percentage points higher than for girls. These statistics reflect a cultural undercurrent that creates powerful disincentives for girls to educate themselves, ensuring that women remain powerless, objectified, and vulnerable to forced marriages and sexual slavery.
I do not mean to suggest that we have it all figured out here in the United States. Sexual assaults on U.S. college campuses are on the rise, femicides are seventh in line as causes of early death among females in the United States, and our most recent census report confirmed that—despite decades of working for equality—women still earn just 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. But I know that I am lucky. I am a shareholder in a successful law firm that not only supports me, but has been lauded as one of the best in the nation for women attorneys. I have been successful, first and foremost, because I was born into a family that never questioned whether I would go to college; it was simply assumed.
But is it possible to change cultural norms in other countries? And even if we could, what place is it of ours? To answer the second question, we are no longer isolated on this planet. The diminution of women everywhere affects all of us, by preventing economic growth, destabilizing societies and even planting the seeds that allow terrorism to flourish. Education is a fundamental human right that belongs to everyone, boys and girls, everywhere. It is everyone’s responsibility to address harmful cultural practices that result in human rights violations. We can and should work towards universal education in all parts of the world.
The notion that there is nothing we can really do is wrong. Since the fall of the Taliban, the enrollment of girls in primary school in Afghanistan has risen from virtually none to approximately 37%.
I know from personal experience that norms against educating girls can be changed. In 1999, the Advocates for Human Rights founded a school in a village in Nepal where education rates for children were extremely low. The school’s basic admission criteria were that the students must be low income, and the student body must be 50% girls. Parents of these children, when interviewed, expressed sincere doubts about the value of education for their children—especially the girls. Over time these views have changed dramatically. When I visited the school in 2011, the parents no longer questioned why they should educate their children. Instead, they demanded that The Advocates expand the school to include more grades. Many of the girls who have graduated from our school are now studying at the University. It’s only a drop in the global bucket, but it’s a start.
In her legal practice with Fredrikson and Byron, Foster defends, investigates, and advises clients in criminal and civil matters involving financial fraud, healthcare fraud, corruption, FCPA, trade secrets theft, illegal immigration, False Claims Act and other regulatory concerns.
What could be more fitting than to share a poem written by Kanchi on this day, the United Nation’s International Day for Eradication of Poverty. Kanchi was the first girl to graduate from the Sankhu-Palubari Community School, in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley. Supported by The Advocates, the school educates some of the world’s most disadvantaged kids to prevent them from being sucked into child labor.
Kanchi was six years old in 1999, when the school opened its doors. Now a young woman, she plans to study agriculture in college, and hopes to bring organic farming techniques back to her village. “I want to live a healthy life, and give a healthy life to others,” she said.
When I was born in small hut,
i’d be a heavy load,
i’d be a heavy load,
Anyhow i have to accept all the things
which were asked by father & mother
because i’m a daughter,
because i’m a daughter.
Father & Mother always used to say
that i don’t have any right to read & write
because 1 day i have to leave birth place &
i have to be someone’s wife,
i have to be someone’s wife.
They says that i cannot do anything in my life because
my life is like an egg which can
Creak at any time if it falls,
Which never be join back,
which never be join back.
They say that to do household work,
that’s my big property &
during the time of my marriage
when i get more dowry,
during the time of my marriage
when i get more dowry.
These heart pinches words
collided in my ear,
my heart nearly go to burst,
my heart nearly go to burst.
At that time my 1 heart says
that u have to leave this selfish world.
But another heart says that don’t get tired
to achieve goal u have to struggle more,
u have to struggle more.
Kanchi was one of 39 students in Sankhu-Palubari Community School’s first kindergarten class. To get to school, she had to walk 1-1/2 hours each way. There were other obstacles along the way, too. At various times, her parents wanted her to stop school and help them with farming. But she stayed in school and worked hard. ”I want to do something different from the others,” she told them. She stayed in school and was one of only two girls in the first class to graduate from eighth grade. Kanchi continued on to high school, and completed twelfth grade at Siddhartha College of Banepa in 2012.
In many ways, the story of Kanchi reflects the experience of girls in many countries. All over the world, girls are denied equal access to education, forced into child labor, married off at a young age, and pressured to drop out of school because of their gender.
There are many good reasons to ensure access to education for girls like Kanchi. Educating girls is one of the strongest ways to improve gender equality. It is also one the best ways to reduce poverty and promote economic growth and development.
“If we are to realize the future we want for all, we must hear and heed the calls of the marginalized,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “Together, we can build a sustainable world of prosperity and peace, justice and equity – a life of dignity for all.”
Read more about Kanchi in Jennifer Prestholdt’s October 10, 2012 blog post. Prestholdt is The Advocates’ deputy director and director of the organization’s International Justice Program.
By: Susan L. Banovetz, The Advocates’ communication director
The Sankhu-Palubari Community School was a very special place for Laura Sandall’s older sister Emily. A young woman with tremendous spirit and energy, Emily raised money for the school when she herself was still in high school. A few years later, she seized the opportunity to live in the Sankhu-Palubari community and volunteer at the school for several months. Emily died, unexpectedly and far too young, in a hiking accident in November 2006. The Sandall family decided shortly thereafter that they would honor Emily’s legacy by continuing to share her passion for education of the most disadvantaged children. They created the Emily Sandall Foundation, because, as their foundation’s website says, “In the midst of tragedy comes opportunity”. The Emily Sandall Foundation has supported The Advocates’ school in Nepal for more than five years, along with many other educational projects that Emily would have loved. Laura Sandall and her mother, Becky Sandall, were able to visit (and make their own unique contributions to) the Sankhu-Palubari Community School for the first time in September 2012 as volunteers on The Advocates’ team. Here, in our first guest post on The Advocates Post, Laura shares her thoughts about the Sankhu-Palubari Community School. ~ Jennifer Prestholdt
I wasn’t sure how I would feel pulling up to the Sankhu-Palubari Community School for the first time. Emily had loved the school dearly since she was in high school, raising money on her own to support the kids in Sankhu. She would carry around a milk carton during high school and collect change and send it off to the school. She even helped me do a presentation at my own middle school and we raised a hundred dollars. She was so passionate about these kids’ education.
Sankhu is a very poor village located outside of Kathmandu, Nepal. The Sankhu school began in 1999 when a group in Minnesota wanted to give these kids a chance at a great education Luckily, my mom and I were able to visit the school with this group from Minnesota, The Advocates for Human Rights. They are a group of very intelligent, very passionate people who have worked so hard to support this school and with the help of a local Nepali organization called Educate the Children, they have all been able to make this school very successful and to be able to give children an amazing education.
The kids that enroll in Sankhu are at a very low caste, their parents are mostly farmers and most of their parents cannot read or write. The children, due to their families’ low income, would normally be doing labor if it weren’t for this school. Many of them were child laborers before this school was started. Now, the Sankhu-Palubari Community School enrolls over 300 students, ranging from nursery to 10th grade. These kids who would have been working in a farm or making bricks now can read and write and have a chance to get a great education.
I knew all of this before visiting the school but I wasn’t prepared for the emotions of actually seeing it. I was able to meet the children in all of the different grades, meet their teachers, meet the headmaster of the school and see all of the classrooms. I was able to interview over 15 students and ask them detailed questions about their families and about what this school means to them. I was even able to lead a nutrition class for the 7th and 8th graders and teach them about the importance of eating well. I also lead a few classes on reading.
I felt closer to Emily the past week then I have in many years. Seeing the kids and having them tell me firsthand how this school has changed their lives and how grateful they are to have our support meant the absolute world to me. These kids are special. Some of them walk over 2 hours a day each way to come to class and many of them work before and after school to help their parents with their farms and with housework. They are incredibly dedicated children in their studies and with their families.
Although the children in this school are the poorest of the poor in this village, they have done extremely well in school and 100% of the 10th grade students passed the SLC exam, which far exceeds most of the other schools in the surrounding area and Kathmandu. They are all so happy to be getting an education. And to hear one of the students tell me that if it wasn’t for the school, he would be making bricks and not be able to read or write is very moving and shows how important education is to these children.
I love this school and I love these kids. And even after ten years since Emily lived in Nepal and volunteered at the school, her presence there is still very strong. Many of the older kids remember Emily and told us she was their favorite teacher. One of the teachers who still works there was one of Emily’s close friends and had the children in her class sing us Emily’s favorite Nepali song. And the headmaster of the school called Emily his best friend and reminisced about her dancing and singing and her passion for helping disadvantaged youth. It’s amazing how she touched so many people and after all these years, she is still remembered so fondly and so loved by so many people at the school.
She continues to awe me in her love for life and her love for people and her love for helping others. I am still so proud of what Em did in her short life and I also am so proud to be a part of the Sankhu school. The kids were so polite, so willing to learn, so excited about their education and their futures. To know that if it wasn’t for this school, they would be child laborers and would have completely different futures. To see the graduates of the 10th grade continuing on in their education, wanting to be doctors or teachers, and applying to universities. Many of the students said that after graduating university, they would want to come back to their village and help the people in need.
I know Emily was there with us as we sang with the kids, asked them questions, and as I taught my own classes to the 7th and 8th graders. I know that she would be so happy that we saw the school that was a catalyst for her passion of helping child laborers. Even though she is gone, Em is still challenging me to see new places and to help others in need and for that I will always be grateful.