July 6, 2012
On July 4th, Nepali police rescued 124 child workers from sari embroidery factories [alternately called Zari or Jari factories – see below] in the Kathmandu Valley. The children were below the age of 14.
46 sari embroidery factories in the tourist town of Bhaktapur were raided, with the help of Bhaktapur District Administration Office, Bhaktapur Metropolitan Police Range, UNICEF, CIWIN, Concern Nepal, Save the Children, Child Extraction Network and the Children Development Society.
According to Jubraj Roka, a researcher at the Chile Development Society (CDS), there are “more than 80 embroidery factories in the Kathmandu Valley that employ more than 500 children, mostly below 14 years of age.”
The children have been taken to Lalitpur-based Carnet Nepal following their health check-up. Police have handed proprietors of 39 embroidery factories over to the labor office. Other sari embroidery factory owners managed to flee.
Bhaktapur Chief District Officer (CDO) Jitendra Bahadur Bhandari said the rescued children will be handed over to their parents in a month. “Preliminary investigation shows that most of the children had been forced into the job due to poor financial status of their families. So, we will see if we could do anything to help these families,” said Bhandari, adding that the rescue campaign was launched after non-government organizations working for child rights pledged to extend their support.
In late June, police summoned the factory operators and warned them not to employ children under 14 years of age and to run their businesses only after getting them duly registered. Today’s crackdown followed after the embroidery factories paid no heed to the warning.
Programme Officer at The Children Development Society Yubraj Roka said out of 320 children working at the 46 sari embroidery factories, 260 were under 14. “Most of them are 7 to 10 years of age and they are forced to work for 10-17 hours a day,” said Roka.
The Children Development Society had been studying sari embroidery factories in the Madhyapur Thimi area for the last two years.
ZARI (or JARI) FACTORIES
Zari is a brocade of tinsel thread meant for weaving and embroidery. It is manufactured by winding or wrapping (covering) a flattened metallic strip made from pure gold, silver or slitted metalized polyester film, on a core yarn, usually of pure silk, art silk, viscose, cotton, nylon, polyester, P.P., mono/multi filament, wire, etc. Nowadays, it is broadly divided into 3 types: “real zari” made of pure gold & silver; “imitation zari” made of silver electroplated (thinly) copper wire: and “metallic zari” made of slitted polyester metalized film.
CHILD LABOR IN NEPAL TODAY
There are an estimated 1.5 million Nepali child workers between 5-17 years. Even though the minimum legal age of employment in Nepal is 14, children as young as six can be seen working in roadside restaurants, factories, offices, and even in homes.
"Poverty and lack of opportunities are driving many families to use children as safety nets and sending them out to earn without caring about the physical and psychological dangers involved," says Helen Sherpa of World Education, which has been working on educational projects to combat child labour in Nepal.
Although the number of child workers under-14 has dropped from 2.6 million ten years ago, surveys show there has been an alarming rise in the number of children working in hazardous environments like mines, brick kilns, factories and “entertainment” industries.
Factories that make zari, dance bars, massage parlors and cabin restaurants have become new hotspots for the exploitation and abuse of child workers in Nepal.
"Eleven to twelve year old girls are working in dance bars and restaurants," says Pramesh Pradhan of Change Nepal, which works with women and children in the 'entertainment business'. "These days Nepali girls are smuggled not just to India but also within the country. There has been a surge of young girls forced into commercial sex work."
After the clampdown on zari factories in India, many young Indian boys and girls have been found in fabric factories across Nepal. Children as young as five are forced to work up to 14 hours a day because they are docile and have nimble fingers.