Thangpalkot, Nepal – High up in the Himalayas of Nepal, one school is using football to empower girls. Since the powerful 7.9 earthquake last year, humanitarian organisations working in Nepal have noted that “concerns have been raised” that more girls and women are being trafficked for both sex and labour (PDF) to help support their families.
Thangpalkot is located in the mountains of Sindhupalchowk province. On a normal day, it takes at least eight hours on muddy, narrow mountain roads to reach Thangpalkot from Kathmandu by car. After the earthquake, only helicopters could reach some of these remote villages.
Sindhupalchowk has one of the highest trafficking rates of any of Nepal’s seven provinces, according to social workers from the non-governmental organisation Childreach Nepal working in the region. Poor infrastructure, poverty, and a desperate lack of opportunity force many families to send their teenage children abroad to earn a living, making them easy targets for traffickers.
The primary and secondary schools in Thangpalkot serve a collection of small villages grouped alongside the single track road that snakes up the mountains. In the past, education hasn’t been a priority for most families in the area because of poverty.
One school, run by Childreach Nepal, is using football as a way of keeping children in school. With the help of Coaches Across Continents, boys and girls are not only getting fired up for the game, but they are also excited to show up to class. The sport has put up a surprising defence against trafficking.