News

Former child slaves share their stories

Encircled by a group of six girls, Sanita Lama snacked on chocolate pastries as her laughter filled the room. To her left, Jaya Bjandari, discussed his newfound interest in cricket and cycling with another student.

From afar, the two 19-year-olds appeared to fit the role of average teenagers.

However, only nine years ago, both Nepali citizens were among the thousands of exploited child workers who are trafficked, kidnapped or sold into bondage into their native country’s carpet looms and factories.

As part of a four-city U.S. tour sponsored by RugMark, an international nonprofit organization working to end illegal child labor in South Asia’s $1.2 billion carpet industry, Lama and Bjandari shared their personal stories with the University of Miami community Monday at the Storer Auditorium.

“We want to connect Americans on a very personal level to child labor,” said Nina Smith, executive director of RugMark Foundation USA. “We want consumers to use their economic clout to end child labor, which they can do by buying only certified rugs that have a Rugmark label on them.”

Nearly 220 million children worldwide, ages 5 to 17, are involved in cheap manual labor where government enforcement of child labor laws is weak. Many of these adolescents develop health problems, such as deformities and respiratory diseases, as a result of malnutrition, confinement in cramped sheds and inhalation of wool fibers.

“I worked from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. everyday,” said Lama, who at 8 years old became a child slave in eastern Nepal after her mother and sister’s death. “I wasn’t given enough to eat, so when they did feed us I would eat very fast.”

Often, children endure physical and emotional abuse from their employers, who set their wages at a few pennies a day.

“I was beaten because I couldn’t wake up in the mornings,” said Bjandari, who began work in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, when he was 9 years old.

Since its establishment in 1995, RugMark’s efforts have freed and provided educational opportunities to more than 300,000 children, such as Lama and Bjandari. In Nepal, the use of child labor in carpet manufacturing has decreased from 11 percent to 3 percent in the span of a decade.

Lama now teaches English, mathematics and Nepali to adult carpet workers, while Bjandari has plans to pursue higher education in a private institution in order to fulfill his dream of becoming a social worker.

“Sanita and Jaya are incredible examples of what happens when you give kids a chance to flourish in the world,” said Nina Smith.

Joanna Suarez may be contacted at j.suarez15@umiami.edu.

April 20, 2007

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

University of Miami coach Mark Richt called Darrell Langham’s amazing, 28-yard catch on fourth-and-1 ...

Darrell Langham is 6-4, but might as well be 8-4 — that’s how much he has grown in stature for the M ...

The Miami Hurricanes have done it again. For the second week in a row, the Canes rallied to win in t ...

Five of the greatest football players of all time were inducted into the Miami Hurricanes Ring of Ho ...

View photos from the Georgia Tech at Miami game Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, at Hard Rock Stadium in Mia ...

From a game simulating how whales navigate to a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, the U showcased some of ...

A new mobile game called Blues and Reds, now available worldwide, aims to help researchers study int ...

A major Lancet Commission report, a three-year project headed by UM’s Professor Felicia Knaul and co ...

With a $6.8 million NIH grant, the UM School of Nursing and Health Studies and FIU Robert Stempel Co ...

A summer 2017 excursion unlike any other united a group of University of Miami students and faculty ...

Hurricanes legends Michael Irvin, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Warren Sapp and Sean Taylor were officially ad ...

University of Miami wide receiver Darrell Langham and kicker Michael Badgley were among those recogn ...

University of Miami redshirt setter Haley Templeton was named ACC Player of the Week, the conference ...

Freshman Bojan Jankulovski highlighted Day 2 competition on Saturday for the University of Miami men ...

The University of Miami's football game at North Carolina on Oct. 28 will kick off at noon ET o ...

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.