Rule Number Ten (While in Asia): Monkeys apparently love ice cream.
One monkey in particular decided that he loved MY ice cream! A friend and I went to visit the Monkey Temple in Kathmandu yesterday. The Buddhist temple is on a hill overlooking Kathmandu. It’s very beautiful at the top, but the hike up that hill is a haul. There are over 100 steps, and they’re so steep I felt like I had climbed Mount Everest by the time we reached the summit. We decided to cure our exhaustion by eating ice cream! Little did I know, the monkeys at the Monkey Temple do not play nice. They’re wild, and dozens of them run around the temple (thus its name); however, they are quite accustomed both to tourists and thievery. Right after getting our ice cream, a monkey spotted the delicious treat in my hand and began moving toward me with an alarming determination in his eyes. I got a vaccination for rabies right before leaving, but I had no desire to be bit by this aggressive little creature. So, in order to save myself from attack, I sacrificed my ice cream by throwing it on the ground. Within seconds the little bugger had snatched it up and started licking away.
I’ve been in Kathmandu for four days now. I’m staying with a family affiliated with the Nepalese organization Red Thread works to support, and my oh my, do they know how to cook (now I know how Buddha got his big belly; homemade Nepalese food is incredible)! Last night, I helped make homemade momos! I didn’t think I would be able to eat that many, but the family jokingly told me if I couldn’t commit to eating 20, then I wasn’t allowed to eat any period! Needless to say, it was not hard at all to eat the delicious dumpling-like delight.
On Friday, I met with the International Organization for Migration to learn more about their work to combat sex trafficking in Nepal and if there may be room for future collaboration. IOM does work in counter-trafficking and has, within the last few years, been researching rehabilitation strategies for victimized people returning to Nepal. However, the strategies of IOM and the organization the RTM supports are very different. IOM focuses on reintegration and rehabilitating Nepalese people who are returning from India and the Middle East following a situation of trafficking that resulted in slavery. Approximately 200-300 Nepalese victims of slavery abroad are returning every year to Nepal; this includes victims of both labor and sex trafficking. IOM is seeking to provide livelihoods for these individuals, while helping them gain citizenship. In Nepal, citizenship is obtained after the 16th birthday. As many people are trafficked out of Nepal before turning 16, it is currently difficult for them to return to Nepal and gain their citizenship. This is due to the fact that citizenship is passed through family affiliation, and, due to stigmatization, many families are unwilling to claim family members who have been victims of human trafficking.
While IOM is working toward a noble cause, the organization we support has found it most effective to combat trafficking through prevention, as thousands of girls are being trafficked into India on a yearly basis for purposes of sexual enslavement. While reports list the number somewhere around 12,000 girls per year, NGO’s predict the number to be closer to 30-40,000 women and girls being trafficked from Nepal into India every year.
The Nepalese organization we partner with is working to eliminate the need to rescue and rehabilitate women and girls who have already been enslaved outside of Nepal by both stopping these women and girls on the border before they cross into India. They are also working to develop communities by empowering women and girls in villages toward successful business practices and anti-trafficking education.
This morning I also had the pleasure of meeting with the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator. He is the head of UN programs in Nepal and took nearly an hour out of his day to be briefed on the Red Thread Movement and the work of the Nepalese organization we support. Every three to five years, the United Nations programs operating within a country get together to set new goals for the upcoming three to five years. It is a time for them to reevaluate and decide how they can best serve the people of that country. New goals are currently being compiled by the United Nations programs operating in Nepal, and the UNRC informed me that upcoming priorities for the UN will include assisting vulnerable and sexually exploited women and girls in Nepal. The meeting I had with UNICEF later this afternoon also spoke to this goal. These meetings both provided information into the UN’s work toward anti-trafficking in Nepal and opened the doors for potential collaboration down the road.