Ramala* is 19 years old and lives in Kathmandu. “I worked in the factory from 9am to 5pm and sometimes I worked overtime. As time passed, my brother and sister-in-law started arguing that I was not their responsibility. I thought that the quarrel started because of me so I decided to leave.”
“My name is Ramala Chhetri*. I was born in the Eastern district of Nepal and my father died when I was seven months old. My mother and her first husband had one son. After his death she married my father, and I am the only child from my parents. Now she is with another husband.
After my father died, my mother left me in the care of my grandmother and I grew up in her lap. I love my grandmother very much but when I was seven years old my grandmother died. After that, my mother took me to sano buwa ‘s (my step father’s) house. My mother and sano buwa had a son.
My stepfather always hated me. He used to scold me and never loved me. He only loved his son. I didn’t want to live with them because of his behaviour.
I studied at stepfather’s up to seventh grade. My stepfather used to drink. I had to work a lot in my stepfather’s house. I used to wash dishes, clothes, clean the house and look after my younger brother. My parents were farmers and struggled a lot.
One day I ran away from Eastern district of Nepal and came to Kathmandu. I thought life would be easier in Kathmandu. I stayed with my big brother, his wife and son near Kathmandu in a rented room.
First, I worked in a garment factory. My salary was 7,000 NRs per month. I also used to work as a domestic worker and my duties were cleaning homes, washing dishes, and washing clothes. I worked in the factory from 9am to 5pm and sometimes I worked overtime (one hour more) for about eight months. As time passed, my brother and sister-in-law started arguing that I was not their responsibility. I thought that the quarrel started because of me so I decided to leave.
I had to leave the garment factory and then I stayed in a relative’s room, looking for a job. But I didn’t get any job. Then I went to another location at my Thulobuwa’s (older brother of my father) daughter’s home. I got a job in a guest house at Balaju through a friend. I used to wash dishes, wash clothes, clean the hotel rooms and I worked as waitress.
I had to work from 4 am to 11 pm in the guest house. There were a lot of other girls working in that guest house. One day one of my friends ran away with her boyfriend. The guesthouse owner searched for her and asked me where she had gone. I didn’t answer because I didn’t know anything. But the owner of the guest house beat me severely. No one had beaten me like that in my whole life. I felt alone and helpless. My head was injured and it was swollen blue. I missed my mother and family, but no one came to support and help me. I cried a lot, and I was hurting so much. Then the next day I went back to work. The cook and chef of the guest house knew that owner had beaten me, and they told me not to worry and everything will be fine. But that incident always stays in my mind. I was so innocent but beaten up even though I hadn’t done anything. Still, I could not tell anyone about the incident. Now I realize I should have gone to the police and filed a case against her. After that incident, I left that job.
I came to Dohori sanjh through one of my friends, Sajita,* who also used to work there. I worked in Dohori from 5pm to 12am. My monthly salary was 6000 Nrs. I always ate dinner in Dohori but used to miss my breakfast and lunch due to my working pattern. I had to work long hours standing as a waitress. One day, I fainted at work and my friend helped by spraying water on my face to bring me round. A doctor came to Dohori sanjh to check on me and according to the doctor, I fainted due to low blood pressure. I used to take vitamins because I was weak and fainted twice more. I suffered from back pain after the incident.
One day I went to hospital to consult with a doctor about my back pain and fainting. The doctor referred me to the Teaching Hospital Maharajgunj (TUTH) and suggested I have an MRI. Until that point, I managed to pay all my medical expenses from my savings with some help from friends. However, all the reports were normal. When I got back to work, the owner of Dohori sanjh was spreading rumours about me, telling the workers that I might have gone to a club and taken drugs or alcohol. I was hurt by the rumours. Then the government started lockdown from April and Dohori sanjh was closed.
My mother called me back home when the lockdown started. I used to tell my parents that I worked in a fancy store in Kathmandu. I could not tell them the truth. I called my brother before I went to the Eastern district. He gave me 1000 rupees to buy fruit for mother. I bought one dress for my mother and one dress for my younger brother. I stayed at home for two months. As the rainy season had already started, we finished our harvesting. So, it has been a month since I returned to Kathmandu. Now I live with my friend in a rented room. My friend Sajita* got married.
I am doing a free beauty parlour course in Kathmandu with the help of my friend. I have a dream of opening my own parlour and running my own business in the future.”
*All names have been changed