11 Jan 18
This is an extra, unexpected day in Kathmandu- David decided after arriving back in the city so late last night and not able to find dinner at that hour, that it would be wise to relax for a day before traveling. An unexpected day with no agenda was rather exciting, and David had several ideas on ways to make use of our time. (more ideas than we had time for, actually)
We began by taking a tour of the monastery associated with the Shechem Guest Home- a friendly monk showed us around the building and patiently explained the rituals and principles of the monastery.
The monk talked about many aspects of life in the monastery; from the process by which to boys come to study here (must be a wish of both the boy and the parents) to the projects that take place- we toured the place where they make incense and the art studio. One thing that especially stuck out to me was his discussion of body, mind, and soul and seeking unity between them. This is what they refer to as enlightenment and life is much easier when you can achieve unity between them. This reminds me of studying ballet- especially when dance is done so as an offering to the Lord. The physical component is the most obvious, but it also takes commitment and focus to grow and improve as a dancer. That could be all you need to gain technique, but the aspect of spirit, dancing for a higher purpose- to give back to the God who gave you that gift, brings a new depth to dancing
After our monastery visit and lunch, we got for a visit to the Shakti Samuha Safe House in Kathmandu. We rode public transportation to get there, which was an adventure! When we
arrived, we were ushered into an upstairs room and served milk tea. I was impressed by the team that was there in the home: a coordination, case manager, psychosocial counselor, and a home counselor.
“We try to protect from problems, but sometimes they happen anyway. In this case, we try to build them up stronger than before.”
The mission of the Safe House:
- Missing case/rescue
- Follow-up (see if they want to come work for the Shakti campaign because they are the warriors.)
Women stay in this home for 6-12 months. This is the first step when they return from trafficking in the effort to reintegrate them to life in Nepal. Here, they receive counseling, health services, and entertainment as well to make life integration as “normal” as possible.
After 6-12 months, women are transferred to a Halfway Home. They usually spend another 6-12 months here, learning life skills. What these life skills might be depend on the individual- their needs and their interests. Some may receive education- they will place women in classes and schools based on their interests and skills.
The obstacles they face are “infinite.” First: their budget. Second: collaborative operations- Shakti works with governments, families, and many more- all in efforts to rescue and rehabilitate women and battle trafficking. Third: the stigma, the perception of survivors by society.
We asked how the Shakti Samuha workers receive their training. They said they learn to do what they do through experiences in their lives- studying, doing, and experience.
How many enter this program every year?
There are no fixed numbers, but 2004-present, 660 women have passed through this home. There were approximately 69 in 2017. Only 9 were actually survivors of external trafficking. (outside Nepal) There are four home like this in Nepal. The youngest girl to enter this home was eight years old. The oldest was fifty. Normally, they are teenage through early thirties.
David then asked Charimaya if she would share some of her personal story, and she shared much more than that! Charimaya is one of the original founder of Shakti Samuha- she was also the first woman in Nepal to prosecute her trafficker. (a case which she won) I must note that throughout these meetings, I was never aware of which women in the room were formerly-trafficked women and who were only workers for Shakti Samuha. I very much respect that they were never introduced as such- it reflected their commitment to viewing these women as survivors rather than victims and not allowing their past to define the person they are today.