Nepal, is a landlocked country in South Asia, lying between China and India in South Asia. The land rises from the hot, low-lying Terai plains to the peak of Mt. Everest, the highest point on the planet. Nepal holds eight of the world’s ten highest peaks. Parts of Nepal only recently have been opened to Western visitors and there is a major road construction program in rural Nepal
Nepal’s cities also are extraordinary. The streets of Kathmandu are clogged with traffic and studded with ancient temples where every morning the local people serenely make offerings, ringing temple bells over the honking of horns and lighting incense amid diesel exhaust. Exquisite woodcarvings dating back centuries adorn buildings that are falling down. Buddhists and Hindus share the same shrines. In alleys tucked between cyber cafes, children disabled by polio beg for rupees.
Statistics express some of the complexities of working in Nepal. Over 26 million people live in Nepal, and they consist of 92 castes, sub castes, ethnic, and subethnic groups, representing 40 languages. Although there has been a massive influx to Kathmandu, over 80% of Nepalese still eke out a living from subsistence farming in rural areas far from electricity, roads, or other social services. Only 20 percent of the land is arable, the rest is too mountainous.
The majority of Nepal’s population are children under age 18. Over 80% of these live-in rural Nepal, half suffer from malnutrition and other related diseases. 32,000 children are working in stone quarries, and 12,000 Nepali girls are sold in India every year. 27,000 children die of diarrheal every year.
These young people are hardly prepared for the challenges that lie ahead of them. While 70% of Nepalese children begin elementary school, half of them drop out before the fifth grade. Fortunately, the internal armed conflict in Nepal that caused millions of children to suffer and almost 1000 to be killed or injured, came to a relatively peaceful resolution in 2006. Even so, a decade of violence has left 40,000 children displaced, 8000 orphaned, 5000 on the streets and many in great need.
Women and girls in particular are disadvantaged. Only about half of girls are able to read or write, and their older sisters and mothers are even less likely to be literate. The legal system also discriminates against women. Cultural makes it difficult for women to assert their basic human rights and receive health care and a decent education. Lack of education among girls usually means early marriage and child-bearing for such young women, there is little family planning, poor child care, and a lower likelihood that their own daughters will be educated. The cycle of poverty continues.