Fifteen-year-old Kusum Pariyar lives in a small village in Nepal. By the time she was nine, she was already carrying a heavy responsibility in caring for her physically disabled brother and helping her parents raise her younger siblings. There is no formal work for her parents in their village, so Kusum’s family, which belongs to the lower castes of Nepal, got by as best they could—getting small jobs here and there and being paid with used clothing or left-over food.
Three years ago, Kusum’s uncles, who lived in a nearby village, brought a man from Kuwait to Kusum’s village to talk with Kusum and her parents. This visit created much attention and excitement in the village, and Kusum’s neighbors expressed respect and awe for Kusum’s uncles to be traveling in such important company.
The unknown visitor introduced himself as a representative of a wealthy businessman from Kuwait who had been alerted to Kusum through her uncles’ connections in Nepal. He had been told that Kusum was a beautiful young woman who would make a suitable wife for a man of his stature. The visitor described a life of wealth and security for Kusum if she would agree to marry his employer, and that the matrimony would also mean that money would be sent to take care of the needs of her family. He explained that Kusum was in a position of great honor to have been chosen and that she should feel very fortunate.
Kusum’s family members were overjoyed at their good fortune and with little hesitation they agreed to send Kusum with a relative across the Nepali border to Patna, India. In Patna, Kusum would meet again with the marriage broker and would travel with him onto her new life in Kuwait. The foreign visitor left some money for the family as he departed, and it was agreed that Kusum’s aunt from a neighboring village would come to escort Kusum across the border of Nepal.
While Kusum was nervous about leaving her home, and saddened about the idea of being separated from her family, she was full of excitement about a secure, and even happy future. She felt proud at the prospect of playing an important role as the oldest in her family, and for being able to take care of their needs through this arranged marriage. And Kusum’s uncles seemed very proud that their niece would bring good fortune upon all of them.
Finally Kusum left with Samjhana, her aunt, to start her new life. But things did not work out as Kusum and her family were led to believe.
Kusum realized when she arrived in India to be transported to Kuwait, that the marriage proposal and the promise of a secure and happy life were completely fabricated. It soon became clear that she was actually being sold into a traffic ring.
She seized an opportunity when she was in the street with her kidnappers. Kusum began to scream and call for help in the middle of a square, even fighting to escape her aunt Samjhana.
Fortunately, people nearby responded before her kidnappers could silence her. The district police came to her aid, arresting the kidnappers and handing the traffickers as well as Samjhana over to Nepal Police. It was discovered that Samjhana was taking a sizeable commission for each girl that she transported to be sold, and that Kusum’s uncles were also making money on every woman that they had identified, including Kusum, and handed over to traffickers in Patna. The three of them had recently transported six other girls from nearby villages. None of those girls have been found.
Patna has become a new destination from which to transport Nepali females, according to police. Out of 52 notifications of lost girls since December of 2011, only eight young women have been found. Nepal Police Officer, Binod Pokharel, reported that 838 women have been returned from stops at the border due to suspicion that they were being transported for sale. According to Pokharel, the girls are taken to Patna and are again transported to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and other cities in India, such as Delhi and Mumbai.
“In the past, males used to take females but now females themselves are involved,” Pokharel explained. “It seems that the women may be more successful in recruiting young girls because they are young and kind, and create a feeling of trust, just as if they were another sister.”
Records show that the girls that are taken are typically from lower-class castes and poor families, and are enticed to follow brokers by promises of foreign employment and marriage. “The Nepal and Indian police forces try to work together with volunteers to recognize and stop traffickers at the border,” said Pokharel.
Kusum is now completing her studies as a chef, gaining new skills that can bring her greater security and independence. Kusum feels pride in her new capabilities, and has a sense of purpose in being able to help her family. In addition, Kusum is determined to continue speaking out and telling her story to help other girls avoid the trap of human trafficking. We thank Kusum for her bravery and determination and hope her story, and others from the women who have come to the Journey Home Foundation, give hope to vulnerable girls.