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Report November 2009

How are things looking for pro filia in November 2009?
We founded pro filia in November 2008 – our organization is one year old! And we already have 39 members! In addition, there are interested people who donate or contribute in other ways. 

The contract of co-operation between pro filia and MAITI Nepal was signed on 12.10.2009 in Kathmandu (see picture in appendix) and we have transferred the first instalment of money for the first half year of co-operation. Now we are collecting for our current projects and our second year!

What are we currently doing at pro filia?
We met with MAITI members on 12.10.2009 in their offices in Kathmandu to sign the contract of co-operation we had previously worked out together. We also wanted to become familiar with MAITI’s work on location, so we visited some of the institutions they run. For instance, we visited a clinic, a baby nursery, a school with about 300 pupils, a rehabilitation centre for young girls and women, and a sewing work shop where young women receive vocational training and where they sell jewellery they have made. We were impressed by the commitment and competence of MAITI’s staff, by their solidarity with the girls and young women in care, and by the high quality of the support for them on offer. 

The next day we set off to the Indian border to visit ‘our’ shelter, accompanied by a MAITI staff member. Originally we had planned to visit Biratnagar, but the shelter in Bhairahawa needs more urgent support to prevent closure (and thereby the waste of what has already been developed there). After a seven-hour drive on rough roads through beautiful landscape, down the Himalaya into the tropical south of Nepal, we were able to visit the shelter (see picture 2). And through our help it is now in a position to continue its good works. We were received by the manager of the shelter as well as the governor of the district. The governor talked to us again about the tragic situation of girls in Nepal, and he expressed his great appreciation for the preventative measures offered by the shelter in particular, and MAITI more generally, providing girls with the means to help themselves.

Together with the manager of ‘our’ shelter, we then drove directly to an Indian border check point and met some border guards. These women – trained by MAITI – approach girls whose situation seems suspicious just before they cross into India. Guards talk about the dangers of crossing the border, and they make clear that the vast majority of girls who do so end up in Indian brothels. At the same time, our border guards emphasize the possibility of finding support and refuge in one of our shelters. A picture in the appendix shows some border guards conducting such conversation.

We also learned about all of the MAITI-led information campaigns along the border where Bhairahawa is located. We learned about efforts by the shelter’s team to locate and inform young girls who work in restaurants and bars, where they are often lured away by false promises of money for work in rich Indian households. Most of these girls end up in brothels as well. Hence we were deeply impressed by the network that has been developed over years by the committed staffers in the shelter, a network involving those on the MAITI-team, local government officials, people in the customs office, and what few existing social institutions there are in the area. We saw first-hand the great respect and appreciation those who work in the area have for MAITI and its staff. Indeed the top-ranked customs inspector at the Indian border emphasized to us directly the importance of MAITI’s work. 

Unfortunately at the same time we recognized that there is an acute danger of all this good work being closed down simply for lack of funding. So this is one place where pro filia can provide effective support – a clear and significant task.

The dire need of funds was manifest in the furnishing of the shelter, for instance. To call it ‘spartan’ would be to use an overly gentle label. The common room there contained nothing but a TV set –no carpet, piece of furniture, pillow or other provision for leisure activity. Needless to say traumatized girls need more than a safe place in the shelter. They need a space in which they can be at least somewhat comfortable and at least somewhat engaged in activity. This was not possible as things stood at the shelter, solely for the lack of funding; and to make matters worse, vocational training could not be continued because no monies were available to support it.

We want to add to pro filia’s financial support for the basic running of the shelter by collecting donations especially for the refurbishment of the common room (such as pillows, shelves, books, paper and pens and a computer), and for the provision of training courses. Together with MAITI, we are in the process of developing a specific plan for these goals and are extremely grateful for every Euro donated to this end! (account no: 808 256 500 at the Volksbank Münster, BLZ 401 600 50)

What’s next?
Our next goals are:

— To assist the work of the shelter in Bhairahawa, in particular to provide financial assistance
— To increase pro filia’s funding share from the currently-feasible 35%, since it is not clear how long MAITI will be able to cover the rest of the running costs
— To refurbish the common room for girls and young women so that they can feel comfortable and begin to develop their own activities
— To provide vocational training for those in the shelter
— To raise public awareness and understanding of the desperate plight of girls and young women in Nepal
— To increase membership, donations and help from others, in order to achieve all these goals
— To develop our website and present regularly up-dated information about the status of projects in Nepal. 

Next progress report
I will report again in the first quarter of 2010!

10.11.2009 Johanne Feldkamp