Since the year 2000, more than 11,000 Kamlaris, [ ] girls committed to indentured servitude by their parents, have been rescued. But without financial support, those freed remain impoverished and some say they are forced to consider returning to work as Kamlaris. Efforts to free thousands of enslaved girls in Nepal and get them into school need more funding and less government bureaucracy.

One such girl was barely six when her parents sold her to work in a rich household in Kathmandu. In 2007, after 12 years of servitude, she was rescued.

Though the government has a budget of nearly US$2.3 million for the education and vocational training of freed Kamlari girls in 2011, most of the funds remain unspent for reasons known only to the government and its bureaucrats. The poor continue to suffer while the bureaucrats keep shuffling files and delaying matters. The money is tied up in red tape, with officials often blaming each other for inaction.

In 2009, the government had a budget of nearly $1.6 million for 7,000 girls but not even $150,000 was spent. The rest of the money was frozen by the end of fiscal year 2010; the same will happen in 2011.

Government to blame?
It is a big failure of the system and the Nepali government remains irresponsible.

There is concern that many of the formerly indentured girls are already dropping out of school because they cannot afford the fees. In Dang District, western Nepal, about 400km south of Kathmandu, more than 200 former Kamlaris have already dropped out of school this year.

Of the 11,000 girls rescued, 6,500 are now aged 6-19 and were supposed to receive a monthly government grant of $20 for school fees. But the girls have never seen the funds. The cash is usually sent to the school administration which charges for school registration, monthly fees and other things.

All Kamlaris, and many activists, are from the Thauru ethnic group and have the same surname – Chaudhary.

The Ministry of Education, which is responsible for helping to fund the girls’ education, said financial assistance had already reached the Kamlari students.