My name is Prem Lal Tharu.
36 years ago, I was born into bonded labour.
I was not allowed to go to school.
Sometimes I woke at 1am to start work.
I could never free myself from the debt I was born with.
15 years ago, bonded labour became illegal and I was set free.
I went with my wife and small baby to live in a forest, where we dug a hole and covered ourselves in leaves at night to stay warm.
500 households shared one water pump.
10 years ago, I broke stones for money.
We had a stick house that leaked.
Sometimes I drank too much.
Sometimes I beat my wife.
5 years ago, I joined a WACT Self-Help Group.
Today, I have a small farm with 7 goats and 8 pigs.
I am the Treasurer of my group.
I can write my name.
Government officials come to me to consult about our community.
My two sons are at school.
I know men and women have equal rights.
I do not beat my wife.
There is always hope.
Kamaiya was a system of bonded labour that kept men and women in Nepal enslaved on the land of the ruling elite. When the practice was made illegal, many Kamaiyas were evicted by their former landlords.
The Self-Help Groups formed by TEAR’s partner WACT (Welfare Association for Children Tikapur) enable some of the most marginalised and dislocated members of a community to join together, supporting one another to learn more about their rights and health, save money and begin small businesses. While most groups are only for women, Prem’s story reminds us that men also need the support of trusted neighbours, and that the outcomes of membership can be deeply transformative.