Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Scratching at the Surface of Kathmandu

One of the many crazy streets
in Kathmandu
Kathmandu is in the grips of Diwali at the moment, which means that all government offices are shut down.

Which means we cant get out NGO application in, but it does mean we get a day off to explore.

If you ever get the chance, wander around Makati in the Philippines.  Pretty nice area right?  Lots of neat restaurants and very clean.

You might also wanna check out Osu in Ghana.  Make sure to stock up at the Koala Supermarket before stocking up on vitamins at the Sunshine Salad Bar.

And, if in Uganda, be sure to visit the Garden City Mall in Kampala, grab some eats at the food court before heading out for a round of golf at the nearby course.

All these areas are great places to visit and you might find yourself thinking "What's the big deal?  Sure there's some poverty, but... Meh.  It's not that bigga deal".

Venture out a little more in Makati and you'll find the girly bars where desperate Filpinas sell their bodies to make some extra pesos.  Head down the road a little from Osu and you'll find semi-naked people asleep in deep gutters.  Head down the road from the Garden City Mall and small children from the Karamajong tribe will harass you for money that'll end up in a begging pimp's pocket.

I feel this way about my experience in Kathmandu.  The streets were relatively clean.  Nobody begged me for money.  There was no obvious prostituting going on.  People were well clothed and were just getting on with their lives.

There were some signs of poverty, but nothing that would shock you.

Here's some not so fun fact:

The number of persons who are internally trafficked [in Nepal] is unknown. With some 40,000 girls and women ages 12 to 30 work in 1,200 cabin and dance restaurants and massage parlors in Kathmandu alone. Some of these are sexually exploited and/or trafficked. 
According to local NGO estimates, each year at least 7,500 children are trafficked within the country for commercial sexual exploitation and 20,000 to 25,000 girls become involuntary domestic workers. Official data on missing women in the Kathmandu Valley indicate that an average of nearly 500 women are reported missing each year.

Yikes.  See what you find out if you scratch just a little?

Meaningful Volunteer will never get directly involved in fighting against sex trafficking   It is just too damn dangerous.  Our loose plan at the moment is to focus on early education for females in the hope they will become more "valuable" to their families and less likely to be sold/kidnapped into slavery.  Consultation with local communities will help solidify our plans.

It was great exploring Kathmandu.  I loved the food and wandering through narrow cobbled streets surrounded by buildings that seemed a million years old was just cool.  I look forward to doing something more meaningful in the days to come.

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