But soon, there appears Humla, Jumla, and the rural Karnali of Nepal where Bodoma Sarki, who lives in abject poverty, looks saddened for being separated from her eldest son. A decade ago, she handed her son to the director of Humla Red Cross, Nara Bahadur Rokaya, with ten thousand rupees (Approx 135 US$). Her heart cries now, not just because her son has gone abroad, but to hear him say "mom" to another woman.
These scenes are from Paper Orphans, a documentary film inaugurated at Patan Museum Hall in an evening early March. After the performance by Kutumba, the program attended by several representativesof national and foreign organizations working on children sector, the film was shown. It transported the audience from villages in remote Karnali region to the European countries.
Rosa, a Spain native, waited for three years for permission to adopt Kishan. She took the 6-years-old boy from Balmandir, a government-run child home in Kathmandu to Catalonia in Spain. All along came the responsibility of bringing him up. But, Rosa was surprised when she came to know that Kishan had parents in Nepal. With tears trickling down her eyes, she says: "We were told that he didn't have any parents and relatives." Bodoma Sarki, on other side, who is living a very difficult life in a stone house in the Himalayan foothills, repents: "It would be nice to have my son on my laps." She says Kishan was sent to Kathmandu for education.
The scenes like these are not only heart touching, but Paper Orphans, also has investigative journalism in it. The documentary directed by Marie-Ange Sylvain, is a joint production of Switzerland-based Terre des hommes and UNICEF. According to Joseph Aguettant, Nepal Delegate, Terre des hommes (Tdh), the purpose of making the documentary is to show that there are other ways to deal with children rather than making them paper orphans and supplying them to European countries. He says, "We are not against inter-country adoption per se."
The crew of Image Ark Pvt. Limited, the producer of the film, were able to capture the scenes as wide-ranging as from Spain, France, Humla and children homes in Kathmandu. For example, Dharma Raj Shrestha, member of Central Child Welfare Board, rudely remarks that the children are adopted to Europe because there are more facilities in Europe than in Nepal. Similarly, when Joseph Aguettant and his team reaches Helpless Children Protection Home to know about one child sent abroad, the manager of the center, Sabitri Basnet, says: "This is my organization, this is my home. Please don't be forceful."
According to the joint report released in 2008 by UNICEF and Terre des hommes, 60 per cent of children living in orphanage homes are not orphans. According to another report, 1500 children are missing from Humla district alone. Among them, boys had been taken to orphanage homes in Kathmandu and girls sold in India.
In 2007, Nepal government banned inter-country adoption but it was re-opened in 2009. Organizations like Terre des hommes demand a suspension of inter-country adoption till Nepal follows Hague standards.
The local people of Thehe, remote area in Humla, a 6 hours trek from Simikot, Humla's headquarters, say that Chakra Shahi, member of parliament, took ten thousand rupees per child saying that the children will be placed in an institution for education. In the film, a young man says, "Bal Mandir is like a business organization. Children are selected for sale the way nice he-goats selected from the herd." In one part of the documentary, Joseph says that poverty is not the reason children are trafficked. He says, "Parents send their children for their bright future." The main problem is the lack of public awareness. The documentary is actually well-placed to sensitize the issue. Awareness can be raised in local people of remote areas through this documentary.
Published in Kantipur Daily on March 23, 2010
(Translated by Bidhya Rai for Tdh and edited by myself)