Shiva and family stand in what will soon be their new brick home
Photo: Kari Collins/ActionAid
Freed Kamaiya (bonded labourers) are Nepal’s poorest people. Many became homeless when their landlords evicted them in 2000 after they were freed under the Kamaiya Liberation Act, and the government has done little to help.
Action Aid Nepal aims to improve the lives of freed Kamaiya people by providing secure housing in western Nepal, and improving access to other government services, such as education for their children.
Around a third of Nepal’s people live below the poverty line, and the Kamaiya – former bonded labourers – are the poorest of all. Until they were freed 11 years ago, they were completely trapped by landlords in a cycle of debt passed from generation to generation. Once freed, the landlords evicted the Kamaiya from their land, leaving them homeless. While the government provided land to some freed families, they did not provide shelter. More than a decade later, around 20,000 families are still waiting for land – those who have it live in temporary shelters made of plastic sheets, clothes and bamboo, open to the elements and lacking proper sanitation. Diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid are rampant, and hundreds of Kamaiya women and children have died.
Before I could only dream of freedom, now I have it. My children will study and I hope they will be able to work using their mind instead of torturing their body with manual labour.
Pradeshu Tharu and his family live in a mud house in Kalika village, Bardiya, Nepal. Pradeshu was freed in 2001, and though he has received a government plot of land, he’s yet to receive the materials to build a house.
"Our [straw] roof is a big danger because of fire. It is very difficult to afford this house because of the constant repairs – it takes 35% of yearly income just for upkeep. When the monsoon season comes it washes the mud away, and the roof never lasts.” A new brick home “will be a big financial relief…
It will keep us warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer and healthier all the time.