An Interview with Dr Rajendra Gautam, of 3 Angels Nepal
Earlier this year our team had the pleasure of interviewing Dr Rajendra Gautam – CEO of 3 Angels Nepal, 2015 National Hero of Nepal, and In-Country Project Manager of GDG Projects J959N Anti-Trafficking, Prison & Community Development and J1000N Captivating Nepal – Stop Trafficking/Empower Women. We chatted to Rajendra about the human trafficking crisis in Nepal, and the alternative care model 3 Angels Nepal (3AN) has adopted.
Human Trafficking is a serious issue in Nepal. It is a major ‘source country’ for trafficking – meaning Nepali girls and boys are highly sought after by traffickers. Its open borders with India make it easy for traffickers to take women and children across the border, where they are usually sold for sexual exploitation, slavery, forced labour or the removal of organs. Project J1000N runs 7 border-monitoring booths at key border crossing points between Nepal and India – here they work with the police to intercept traffickers as they take women and children across the border, who are often unaware that they are being trafficked. 3AN and other NGOs estimate that 18-20,000 people are trafficked across this border alone every year!
We asked Dr Rajendra a few questions about how they work to effectively combat trafficking:
Dr Rajendra, could you tell us about the organisations 3AN partners with and why you choose to work with them?
- First and foremost, we work very closely with government line agencies. We ensure we build very good relationships with the authorities for the effective implementation of our projects, and effective advocacy on behalf of voiceless children and vulnerable women. This is a primary way we contribute to the trafficking issue – working with the government to see national change. We also work closely with other like-minded organisations, sharing ideas and strategies. Finally, we work to have close and personal relationships with our beneficiaries. This helps us better understand their needs, and ultimately helps us design projects to bring effective change.
What makes 3AN’s anti-trafficking work so effective?
- We use a three-fold approach: rescue, prevention and rehabilitation. We not only target those that are being trafficked, but also work hard to spread the anti-trafficking message across Nepal. Our ‘rescues’ are predominately interceptions – we intercept women and children that are being trafficked at the border, before they leave Nepal. We run interactive programs in schools and communities, teaching youth and families to identify the methods traffickers use and how to avoid the risk of being trafficked. We are also advocating the government to tighten the borders between Nepal and India, in hope that it will prevent traffickers easily taking people out of the country. Finally, we work with a small number of women and children who have been exploited, to bring rehabilitation through counselling, healthcare, skills training, business initiatives etc.
The residential care of children is in the spotlight around the world. Could you tell us about 3AN’s preferred model of care for children?
- 3AN uses an alternative family care model in caring for children. As a child, I was orphaned at the age of 8 and was fortunate enough to be sent to India for my education through sponsorship. I lived in a hostel and while I was provided with everything I needed, I always felt that good things weren’t for me. I had good food, good clothes, and good education, but I did not have emotional wellbeing or people to share my happiness with.
Today, we work hard to ensure that children in 3AN’s care have a family environment. We use a family home care model to give this to our children – one of the first in Nepal. We always work to restore children to their family where possible, but unfortunately in Nepal, 82% of trafficking cases are the result of immediate or extended family members selling or marrying off their child. There is no established foster system, and children in other family’s homes are usually treated as slaves. We hope that one day extended family or foster families may be able to care for more vulnerable children, but in the meantime we provide a high standard of family care homes for children and work hard to end trafficking. We also advocate the government to see a shift away from orphanages to family-orientated methods of care.
Today, Dr Rajendra serves on the Board of Directors for the Nepali Government’s Central Child Welfare Board. In this role he is advocating for improvements in policy and action, to see an end to trafficking and better care of children across Nepal.