“I was very pleased when our meeting could take place again after all this time. Of course, we were connected via chat, video, and mail over the past years provided the Internet worked. It goes without saying that this cannot replace direct exchange. Especially not for me, as someone who tries to understand from the outside. And not only that, but I also want to be able to translate that for all the donors, for private individuals as well as for companies that trust us. That makes personal contact all the more important.
Our appointment took place at the Voice of Children office. Arranged by e-mail. On the agenda: collaboration, catch up, invoices, partnership, paper handouts, more fundraising appeals, and needs.
For me, it was important to talk about our collaboration because after all, we haven’t seen each other since our contractual agreement, which was finalized by mail. I also wanted to learn how the projects are developing, what has changed in the country since and especially because of Corona, how we can support each other in the future, and what documentation we need to communicate transparently.
My trip included four meetings with VOC:
- at their office,
- at the Dropping and Socialization Center,
- a meeting with two youth at the training center, and
- a visit with a family in their home.
Four of us sat in the office. The president, treasurer, the program officer, and the marketing director. I was given some delicious tea and water to drink. After some time of getting reacquainted and friendly exchanges about Corona conditions in our countries and the extent of them, I learned the following.
Here is an excerpt: One of the biggest challenges right now is protection from internet abuse, which includes sexual abuse that happens online. The fact is that 70 % of young people have cell phones and 60 % use the Internet. Parents often have no control over it and often don’t know what’s happening, what the dangers of the Internet are, or simply can’t keep up with the speed of development.
Voice of Children is planning an Internet Safety Awareness Initiative to educate about the implications. These could be, for example sexual harassment, pornography, or bullying. The Internet is a “facilitator” to contact the abuser. An additional consequence can be child marriage. It should be noted that child marriage has historically been a problem. Cultural origin as well is characterized by poverty and lack of education. Through the Internet, unfortunately, acute again and become a trend. The children and young people are on average 14-15 years old. Child marriages are not legal and there is no official marriage. Unfortunately, it often ends in India (human trafficking). How do we have to imagine this? An exemplary process can be: One gets in touch, for example, through Facebook, is very friendly with each other, gets to know each other and the proposal of a meeting is made. You meet and decide to run away together and live together alone. It is important here to understand that love marriage are still not the norm. On the contrary, in more village areas they are not accepted. This means that the marriages are arranged and there is no common household for the newlywed couple because they live with the husband’s parents. This is what young people want to escape, but it is not the only reason they run away. Sometimes parents catch their children and try to separate them, which brings more conflict, which in turn leads to child fatigue and often ends in human trafficking.
Here’s what I learned about the cycle: by the “marriage” not being legal, the couple lives in illegality. This means there are no papers and therefore no official work. The children born are not officially registered and they have no birth certificate. Since the couple is on their own, problems often lead to separation and a new “marriage” follows. All this increases vulnerability, the cycle begins and gets worse. This is called Cycle Increase. You can now well imagine why more children end up on the street and how hard such a life must be.
Many parents are in favor of an early wedding because it frees them from financial obligations. There are also many parents who are afraid of a love wedding. The law states that adults can decide for themselves who wants to marry whom from the age of 20, but this is not culturally and socially accepted.
Even today, most children have to study what their parents want. In urban areas, there is less pressure.
What’s the plan? An Internet Safety Awareness Campaign. The objective is to educate parents that the Internet causes this progression, but also to explain its importance because the Internet is also essential for education and school, especially since COVID-19. We have to walk a tightrope through education and dialogue.
We agreed that VOC will let us know how we can support them. A future approach is to develop small programs with problem descriptions and focus. Currently defining specific educational activities such as:
- Sexual abuse as well as factors that influence it.
- Creating awareness for parents
- Training for teachers to be able to classify and be more sensitive to certain behaviors
- Training for judiciary and police, creating awareness among prosecutors.
We discussed as a direct task for us is to do a podcast on the topic to create awareness about the issue. My meeting lasted just under two hours and ended with lunch together in the in-house cafeteria. That was only one meeting of the day, two more followed. Taking in and processing so much input in such a short time, absorbing and integrating all the impressions and cultural differences is always a challenge. One that takes a lot of energy, but also gives a lot and is fun for me, because I get access to knowledge that would otherwise not be available to me. A particular highlight for me was when we talked about the topic of love marriage. For whatever reason, I thought it wasn’t real anymore. Seeing my puzzled face, it was explained to me how it was still handled today. When I asked the question to the round which of them was arranged, to my amazement, it was answered quite frankly with a big grin. I replied with a laugh, “well, and I’m divorced” 😉 We all smiled at each other. In conclusion, I can only say it was a great start to my Nepal trip.”