Rita’s Life Story

My name is Rita* and I live with my father, mother, and brother. My sister is married. My mother drinks a lot of alcohol. My father was working abroad. At first, he used to send us money but later he stopped, and then he lost touch with us for 12 or 13 years when he was in Malaysia. He went abroad when me and my brother were very young – we rarely talk. I don’t love him. I don’t remember anything about him, but now we are living together.

We did not have enough land for production, that is why I came to Kathmandu when I turned twelve or thirteen with my sister. I used to babysit my sister’s child and worked in the brick factory for six months. They gave me Rs.1,500.00 a month, and I used to work from 12pm to 1am. My mother also gave me some money.

I bought a bed with that money. My sister brought my mother to Kathmandu thinking that she will improve. But, due to her drinking habit, my uncle and aunt, and others started controlling her and beating her. My sister was a domestic worker and used to do household chores, cleaning and washing utensils. I also worked in a nearby house for a couple of months – but ran away and did not go back. They made me sleep on the floor without a pillow. My salary was Rs.1,000.00 to Rs.1,500.00.

After that I started working in a hotel, I was 14 – but the chefs were nasty and rude. They tried to touch me. I got injured while running away from them when they hit me with a pot. They hit me so hard that the pot broke. I told this to someone from the same hotel and she scolded them. My legs were swollen as I used to wash a lot of dishes. I did not feel like eating and they never paid me on time. I had to pay room rent. Eventually, I left. They called me but I never went back. Later my sister went to the hotel and she took the salary for me. My father was still abroad during this time.

I started working in a wholesale shop with my sister. I was told that my salary would be Rs.8,000.00. I worked for two months and bought a mobile phone. The owner had two wives. He even tried to lure my sister but she did not accept his proposal. He groped me once when I was in the store when trying to take napkins. The other two workers were good. They used to love me. They did not allow me to work. But, I left that job too.

I got another job and I went to see what the job looked like. I had to sit with customers who smoke a hookah. I didn’t know anything about working in a cabin [restaurant]. Most of the customers said, “How can such a young girl work?”. Customers drink and touch our hands – but we cannot object to that. They even speak vulgar words. Other older girls used to call their boyfriends to the cabin. They used to drink and have sex.

One day an old man came and sat near me. I was told to go and sit near him. He touched me. I did not like that. Some of them even wanted to kiss me. I used to escape saying that I wanted to use the toilet.

The owner told me to drink and I got drunk. There were a lot of people. One of them took me inside and offered me beer. “Let’s go outside somewhere to a guest house. Nothing will happen.” He also wanted to have sex with me. He offered me around Rs.6,000.00. I was angry and felt like beating him.

Another time, a man took me to a room. He switched the lights on and off and asked me, “Don’t you want to go?” [Colloquial way of saying ‘one night stand’] He didn’t let me leave the room. He even attempted to grab my breasts. He pushed me onto the sofa. I managed to escape. I still have bruises [shows bruise on her breast]. I was totally drunk. My friend scolded him and he left me alone. Normally when we stay at the cabin we lock the door and light small bulbs.

On another occasion, two boys came and took me and my friend to their hostel. He pulled us and shoved us in his bed. Later, we slept on another floor. The next morning, I woke up at 5am. I took my meal in a hotel and went home in the afternoon.

Two or three customers came another day. I was on my period. We drank together. I got drunk. He pulled me and wanted to have sex. We slept together. I was so scared. I had pain in my stomach too. When I found him in the same bed the next morning, I asked him, “Did you do something?” He told me that he did not do anything as I was on my period. My period stopped for two or three months. I went for a check-up. But everything was fine. Later that guy told me to stop working in the cabin, and that he would find another job for me.

My phupu’s [paternal aunt] husband used to bring his hands to my breasts. When I told my aunt about this she said, “He wants to sleep with you.” She even wanted me to take the opportunity. Once, they had sex in front of me. I ran away saying that I wanted to use the toilet. She even asked, “We were having sex and you ran away from the place?” Her husband was very naughty. He still says “kanchi [little sister] aren’t you going to give me what I am asking for?”

Customers kiss us on the neck and attempt to force us to have sex. My brother-in-law told my mother about my work. I told her, “I only serve drinks.” I did not say anything more.

My father used to beat my mother severely after drinking. She wouldn’t be able to wake up. I didn’t return back home after starting work. Later, I left my brother and started working at the cabin. My sister came to know about my profession. She said “You are a whore. You sleep with everyone.” I felt like crying when she told me that the prestige of a woman is at the tip of a needle [commonly used Nepali proverb]. I cried for many days thinking about when I worked as a domestic worker which was far better.

I told my friend, “I don’t want a job in a cabin. I will work as a domestic worker”. But they insisted that I continue to do the same work. They told me “We only have to sit with customers.”

The previous hotel owner sold the hotel. I received Rs.4,500.00 for working 19 days. The new owner took us to a new club. He offered us drinks. It was a big dance club. We went there around 10pm. The owners came to dance with us, touched us, and suggested that we go with them. We drank but did not go anywhere with them. We returned home around three in the morning. I was worried as I thought my father would beat me. My friend smoked a cigarette mixed with weed. I was worried that my parents would know about that and I have heard that weed increases body weight.

My father told me that he would come to get me. I combed my hair, washed my face and I was ready. But my friend switched off her mobile because she was scared of my father. Later I went to my sister’s place. My bhinaju [sister’s husband] scolded me, “You can afford two meals a day. Why are you working in such place?”

There was a didi [acquaintance] that used to earn money by sleeping with men. She took me to the place one day with her boyfriend. He wanted to sleep with me. But my didi was angry. She told him that I was very young. Many men, particularly older ones, would call me and try to lure me to go shopping. “Let’s go for a trip somewhere to a guest house. Let’s go to a guest house. It is quite easy.” They even offered me Rs.10,000.00. They are all rascals. I blocked them from my phone. “Why do they do this to me? Is it because of my look?” I asked my aunt and sister. But my sister said, “No”.

I was staying at my aunt’s house. One distant relative offered me vodka when my aunt went to her mother’s house. I vomited. He even called me to sleep with him when my sister was not there. I stayed up the whole night. He used to press my feet when I was about to fall asleep. I did not sleep the whole night. I ran away to the brick factory early in the morning.

I think I was seven or eight years old when another distant relative gave me a chocolate and took me to the jungle far away from our house. He pulled my trousers down and covered my mouth. I bit his hand and called my grandmother. She came and rescued me.

If my family would have been with me, I would not be in this situation. At Dashain [biggest festival of Nepal] fathers come home and buy clothes for their children. But our father never came.

We didn’t even talk on the telephone. I never loved him. Everyone said to me, “your father will not come back.” Even after my father came back, my mother didn’t stop drinking. He used to beat her so badly in her stomach with his legs that her uterus fell out. We rushed her to the hospital. I am happy sometimes when my mother doesn’t drink. My father used to beat my sister too. She would cry a lot. That is why she eloped. My mother has quit drinking now. She works as well.

I want to learn sewing, but I am not able to study in lockdown [she had been studying with the help of an organisation]. I also make pote [Nepali jewellery particularly worn by married women]. An NGO distributed sufficient relief packages during the lockdown, but our money was spent on treatment for our grandfather, and we sold our house. It has been five or six months that I have not paid rent to my landlord.

*All names have been changed

November 9, 2021
Article type:
November 2021
Institute of Development Studies