Friday, May 23, 2014

What is a daughter worth?

As I sit on the ground and write this, I am a great curiosity to this group of chickens. As long as they don’t poop on me or my computer, we’re cool. 

Stay back or you're dinner, birdies.
This is not a drill.
Last night's chicken was DELICIOUS.
Besides being followed by chickens, these darling chickadees have become my shadows here in the northern village, the granddaughters, ages 6 & 8, of my host mother. 

Cutest groupies ever
Whether watching them playing the Nepali variant of jacks, climbing trees to get leaves to show me how to make a whistle, pretending to be a cat, or demonstrating the English they know ("d-o-g-dog-d-o-g-dog!!" or counting alllllll the way to a hundred...again), it continually strikes me that they are LITTLE GIRLS. 

Children. 

Innocent and funny and lovely. Free of the cares of the adult world. 

Except that all over Nepal, girls their age are forced into marriage, or trafficked for hard labor or commercial sex work. Lucky for these two, that's not their fate. On the contrary, they are cherished daughters, unlike many girls here, and their education is of paramount importance in their family, as evidenced by the morning scene where the younger was literally and quite comically chased to school by her mother, her wails echoing over the mountain all the way. I'm so glad she didn't see me laughing!

With everything I've learned while being here, it breaks my heart to look into their sweet faces and confront exactly how dastardly and vile the world of child trafficking is, knowing hundreds of thousands of girls like them are suffering in the worst imaginable situations, and that only 1% of them will ever be rescued at the present rate. 

Human trafficking is a worldwide epidemic with 21 million victims, and I again and again wonder how people can be so cruel, so unfeeling, so exploitative of others for their own gain. When even family members will sell off their own. Though there are infinite individual and cultural differences between each of us, the fact remains that every human on this earth is born with the same six basic human emotions, and unlike the animals, we have a capacity for true empathy, the ability to put ourselves in the shoes of someone else, no matter how different their circumstances. Where does that go? How? I both marvel and lament that it's possible to lose this part of our humanity, though in my work as a psychologist I have seen the profound, lasting, and often multigenerational impact of all kinds of brokenness. And it hits me hard every time.

So, crazy as it might seem, there is a part of my heart that breaks for the traffickers as well, to be living such a base and terrible kind of life where they are devoid of the empathy and love for their fellow man, blind to the pain and suffering they are inflicting on such innocents as these. There is pain on both sides that needs healing and restoration.

Facing the depths of the problem here in Nepal, it would be so easy to feel hopeless, but I have also been blessed to meet so many people dedicated to making a change here, and I admire them more than I can say. I have been especially inspired by the 22-year-old woman who is leading a church in her village, and taking a leadership role in her community to provide anti-trafficking education in her entire district, often walking and climbing hours to get to neighboring villages, rallying her peers. Words fail me. Just amazing, really. And I'd love to say more about her, show you her picture, talk about all the wonderful work she is doing for pages and pages, but I am scared that should a trafficker ever find this page, they will identify her and target her and her family for threats and try to stop the work she is doing. That fear and their power is real, my friends. Think about that for a second.

Despite the dangers faced, I dare to have hope with her and others like her that change is possible, and that day by day, week by week, month by month, fewer girls will find themselves despairing, learning they've been sold to a brothel. Girls will know how to protect themselves from trafficking, and families won't feel compelled to trade their girls for short-term financial gain. And more mothers will chase their daughters to school. And I will laugh with glee at every single one.

So sweet that she thinks I can actually learn to play jacks with her.
Darlin', I am definitely not 'letting' you win...you are schooling me all on your own.

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