Update on Shakti Samuha Nepal, October 2012

Playing games at a picnic for the New Day visit

New Day Members Shannon Rogers and Rohan Kalbag had the opportunity to visit the crisis shelter in Pokhara and meet the staff at Shakti Samuha in Kathmandu.  The staff in Kathmandu provided an overview of the crucial support, prevention, and advocacy work that Shakti is doing in the anti-trafficking field in Nepal.  The organization was established in 1996 by trafficking survivors determined to unite, support and empower women who have been affected by trafficking.  They have become a major voice in the anti-trafficking movement in Nepal and internationally.  With the assistance of partner NGO’s and government agencies, Shakti programs address the full needs of trafficking survivors: rescue, crisis support, emergency shelter, medical assistance, reintegration support, job training, and awareness and anti-trafficking education.  They run 2 emergency shelters in Kathmandu that primarily assist Nepalese women who were trafficked internationally, mainly returning from India.  The 3rd shelter is located in Pokhara and assists young women that were trafficked or coming out of the commercial sex sector within Nepal.  New Day Asia’s 2012 grant helped fund the operating expenses of the Pokhara shelter.  Currently there are 9 young women under the age of 18 living in the shelter.  The shelter has capacity for up to 15.  Annually the shelter provides a safe place and support services to about 45 young women.  They stay anywhere from a few days to 6 months, depending on their needs.  The average length stay is about 1 month.

After spending the day with the residents and staff of the Pokhara shelter, Shannon Rogers described the program:   “It was a very warm and loving environment.  It was very apparent that the staff were providing a safe and comfortable place for the girls to recover and determine their next steps.  They were all very welcoming and treated us to a wonderful picnic day filled with lots of games, dancing, and laughter.  The girls ages ranged from 8 to18 and despite the vast differences in needs the girls came together to support and help each other.  The girls asked us to never forget them – we never will.”

Update on Shakti Samuha, June 2012

At our June 11 members meeting in Hong Kong, Zein Williams from Child Welfare Scheme Nepal (CWS), spoke about her recent visit to Shakti in Pokhara.  CWS project manages Shakti on the ground and assists with fundraising, staffing and ongoing management.  You can read an exerpt of Zein’s feedback below or download the Mid year report May 2012- FINAL for more information.  Please contact New Day project leader Danny den Hartog on dannydenhartog@yahoo.com about joining the New Day visit to Shakti on September 30 – October 1, 2012.

The Hong Kong team visited the project in March 2012 and found that the atmosphere in the house was relaxed and peaceful. For security reasons, the house has no name and no logo and a female guard is posted at the door at all times. Inside the house, all 11 resident girls greeted us with smiles. We toured the house and found the rooms clean, simple and decorated with drawings done by the girls. The rooftop area and garden provides a secure outdoor gathering place to socialize and play at the end of the day. Anisha, the project director, drops in and out the house every day. She is warm and affectionate, the girls seem to have a great bond with her.

When we arrived early evening, Anisha, Suman (the male project officer) and the resident housemother were present in the house. Some of the girls and the housemother were preparing dinner while others were watching television. We all sat together, drank tea and everyone introduced themselves in English.

The girls seemed to be very happy to use their language skills. Some of the more extraverted girls asked us if and when we will be coming back. There were a few girls who were shy and did not speak up and we were told that one of the girls had not spoken since arriving in the house a few months ago therefore they do not know her background.

We thoroughly enjoyed this relaxed, engaging exchange. It was a happy visit, and we felt sincerely welcomed by everyone in the house. We can’t wait to go back. Perhaps next time we will bring along some pictures of our lives and some books or games to interact a bit longer with the girls!

During the past six months:

  • 40 girls have been supported and 11 new girls joined the shelter
  • 6 girls were reintegrated with their families and 3 girls left the shelter (one with her baby) to live in anindependent living facility
  • 8 girls were rehabilitated for long term support 
  • 11 girls received formal education training
  • 5 girls benefited from different vocational training skills, e.g. caregiver, housekeeping 
  • All the girls living in the shelter benefited from regular medical check-ups and basic counselling
  • 6 girls were provided legal support to obtain their birth certificate or their citizenship and identity card 

New Day funds Shakti Samuha, Pokhara – Nepal

Shakti Samuha (‘Power Group’) was established in Nepal in 1996. by women survivors of trafficking and violence.

The project supported by New Day is an emergency shelter in Pokhara which provides a place of safety and recovery for girls who are victims of sexual abuse and exploitation or at imminent risk of such abuse.It was established in 2007.

Girls who are referred to the project are supported through a rehabilitation process followed by a social reintegration process (with their families wherever possible). Services provided include emergency shelter, counseling, health care, sexual and reproductive health, education, legal support, awareness and risk reduction (HIV/AIDS, substance abuse), social rehabilitation, family reintegration, vocational training, residential support and business/ employment support.

This service is vital in a country where bonded labour and the trafficking of girls is rampant. Every year around 50 girls benefited from this life saving facility, they have been rescued from a life of exploitation, pain and loneliness, but there is still much to do as their recovery process can sometimes be extremely long.

I visited this project with my wife in August 2011 while on holiday to Nepal. The visit was organized by CWS (Child Welfare Scheme), a partner of Shakti Samuha in Pokhara. CWS provides valuable project management skills and capacity-building through training and systems development.

We were impressed about the love and care that the staff gives to these girls, who have been deprived of this most of their lives. The girls really see the manager as a mother figure. She can relate very well to what the girls went through because of her own experiences. The shelter is a very safe place but with the doors always open thegirls do not feel trapped and are there by their own choice. The visit made a lasting impression on us and I’m thrilled that New Day decided to support this project, so that they can continue with their fantastic work.  You can view the presentation on Shakti Samuha from our January 10, 2012 member’s meeting here: New Day January 2012 Meeting Presentation(Shakti)

Danny den Hartog – New Day member