In Nepal, we will particularly be focusing on the Worst Form of Child Labour (WFCL) in the Adult Entertainment Sector (AES). The last 15 years has seen a massive expansion into AES – not for one reason alone, but coupled with political instability, migration within and out of country, natural disaster, economic hardship and a rapidly growing adolescents age group with easy access to internet and increased use of technology etc.
In 1996, the World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) defined CSEC as “sexual abuse by the adult and remuneration in cash or kind to the child or a third person or persons”. CSEC includes the prostitution of children, child pornography, child sex tourism, and other forms of transactional sex where a child engages in sexual activities to have key needs fulfilled, such as food, shelter, or access to education. In Nepal, restaurants, massage parlours, dance bars, discotheque, dohari, khaja ghar and guest houses can be fertile ground for underaged children to be employed and potentially abused, tortured and exploited.
As the new country coordinator for the Child Labour: Action Research Innovation in South and South Eastern Asia consortium (CLARISSA) I am excited to work with colleagues at Voice of Children (VoC) to address some of these challenges. VoC have a proven track record of working with key stakeholders including Nepal government in the sector of street children and WFCL.
Building an evidence-base
Until now, there is very limited evidence that provides an accurate picture on the true scale of the challenges in Nepal. We want to explore the hidden social norms and cultural practices that allow the WFCL to manifest and persist. This is especially in relation to the violation of children and their rights, family-related abuse within families, negative peer pressure, being victim of domestic violence and/or sexual abuse and ultimately settling down into adult entertainment sector.
Importantly, based on the experiences, stories and analysis of children, we will develop appropriate actions to respond the WFCL by generating suitable solutions.
Embracing the Participatory Action Research approach
The entire programme has been shaped and designed from the outset around Participatory Action Research approach (PAR). The evidence from PAR will be fundamental to informing our findings and advocacy for CLARISSA overall. On a personal level, I am looking forward to unlearning and relearning all my assumptions and experiences through the process. Fundamental to this process is that our work will be child-led. This means that it will be children themselves who generate the evidence for the programme through a systematic mapping/narrative analysis process.
As leader of the Nepal country team I am eager for us all to learn, and to fully embrace the innovative, practical, child-led, child-owned approaches through action research. We hope to build the best possible solutions to address WFCL in Nepal. With all these possibilities in front of us, we know it is important to work with an array of stakeholders. AES is dynamic and rapidly growing in Nepal, which is why this is the focus of work for CLARISSA. It is crucial to effort together with AES stakeholders, children, guardians, government bodies to address the challenges collaboratively.
That said, along with the positive energy we all have; we need to ensure that children and vulnerable adults associated with our programme are safeguarded and protected. It is vital that our work does not compromise their safety or exploit anyone – even unknowingly. So, while CLARISSA is child-led, and we cannot conceivably do this without their voices – we must be as passionate about balancing and mitigating any risks that could arise.