Since coming to DC four weeks ago, I must say that nothing really surprises me anymore.
On Monday, as I was going through a security check at the State Department, I turned around in line, only to see a fellow classmate of mine from Texas standing directly behind me.
That same day, I also had the pleasure of meeting at the TIP Report release, for the first time, a girl who does Red Thread at Washington University. We’d talked many times on the phone but never met in person.
Needless to say, when I met the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Hero from Nepal on the sidewalk while walking home from my internship today, it wasn’t the first time this week that my world had grown perpetually smaller.
Charimaya Tamang was honored on June 27 at the State Department TIP Report release for her exceptional work as one of the founders of Shakti Samuha in Nepal. Charimaya, a victim of sex trafficking herself, was taken to India at the age of 16. After 22 months in an Indian brothel, the government of India rescued her; however, going home to Nepal was not easy, and Charimaya faced incredible stigmatization from her community. Nevertheless, with great courage, Charimaya became the first individual to personally file a case against her traffickers with district police, and because of her bravery, eight perpetrators were convicted and sentenced.
I had wanted to meet Charimaya at the State Department following the TIP release ceremony. Watching Secretary Clinton hand her the Hero Award nearly moved me to tears, and having lived in Nepal for the past few months, I was so excited at the notion of speaking in small bits of Nepali again and learning more about her life there. Unfortunately, she left before I had the chance.
Of course, meeting under such circumstances would have been much too normal and expected anyways.
Instead, I happened to be walking home today when I did a double-take and realized that I had just walked by the woman I most wanted to meet in all of DC! I quickly turned around, bowed in customary Nepali fashion, and said, “Namaste, Ms. Tamang!”
We stopped to talk on the sidewalk for a few minutes; her translator/host helped us communicate. As it was, Charimaya was on her way to meet the Ambassador of Nepal to the U.S., so the man with her gave me his business card and asked if I would be available to meet with them later in the evening. It was so unexpected that I nearly wanted to hug him on the spot for suggesting such an opportunity!
So, this evening, I skipped out of economics class a few minutes early (much to my chagrin!) and went downtown to Charimaya’s hotel to spend more time with her and the man accompanying her while in DC. It was such a fantastic experience, and I couldn’t have been more grateful to be with Nepalese people again, learning more about human trafficking in Nepal and gaining a greater knowledge and understanding of how many wonderful, dedicated people are working to end modern day slavery in that country and around the world!
I encourage you all to at least take a brief glance at the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report (it’s a few hundred pages long), and if nothing else, read the sections on Nepal and the United States!