November 25th in 1988 is a date that remains fresh in our memories – this was the date when the idea for The Women’s Foundation Nepal was born. It was on this particular day, following a college volleyball competition, that we, a group of young women students, were approached by a middle-aged couple asking if anyone had seen their daughter. She had been missing for three months. The couple were landless, so they came to Kathmandu searching for work with their three children. They started to work in a carpet factory. After a few days in the factory, a doctor asked their nine-year old daughter to be his servant; she would help care for his children and during the day he would send her to school. Eight days later, the doctor came back to the carpet factory, telling the parents that their daughter stole 110 grams of gold and had escaped from his home. Since then, the frantic parents had been trying to locate her. After hearing their story, 14 of us gathered together to help them. We visited the doctor, but he refused to meet with us. We went to a political party’s office to ask for support, but they did not take us seriously. Next, we brought our concerns to the police. They were rude and dismissive. They saw us as disturbing troublemakers and asked us to go back to our studies. 

With no assistance from the authorities, we decided to take matters into our own hands. We visited eight colleges telling the story and called a meeting for all those who were interested in helping to find the missing young girl. At this meeting 45 women came together to discuss the case. At the same time we also discussed family and women’s issues. It was at this meeting that we decided to form an NGO to address these types of cases and offer legal support accordingly. Soon after, we selected nine members from various backgrounds: students, doctors, lawyers and social workers to start organising social programs. After going to the Supreme Court and threatening to sue the police and the doctor for their negligence in finding the missing child, the next day, the police were able to easily locate the girl. She was used as free child labour at the doctor’s sister’s home. The Women’s Foundation Nepal could finally reunite her with her family. Since then we have grown. Today we have thousands of members, 7 district offices all over Nepal, two child care centres, three shelters for survivors of abuse and violence, an organic farm, an onsite textile production centre, scholarship programs, skills training for women and free onsite legal support and psychological counselling services.

Kamala Upreti 
President , The Women’s Foundation Nepal