When 11-year-old Asha fled to Kathmandu from her hometown in Rolpa with a friend, her only wish was to earn some money to pay for school. Having lost her mother at a young age and with a father who was not supportive, she knew she would have to fund her own education.
But however attractive the bright lights of Kathmandu may have seemed from remote Rolpa, the reality of the chaotic and fast-paced capital was different.
“One of my friends suggested we work in a brick kiln in Kathmandu like many other families from Rolpa. She said we could earn enough money to pay for school.” And so her yearning for an education drove Asha to begin the back-breaking job hauling bricks on a basket on her back.
Carrying bricks and piling them up in heaps regularly was not just tedious, but also difficult for the young girl. Asha started looking for other options that would at least allow her to study, and it looked like working at a restaurant would be better.
“I washed dishes, cleaned tables, and served the customers all day. I wanted to study but my employers would taunt me for not doing my job properly whenever I tried to make time for my books,” she recalls. For five years, she toiled all day in the restaurant, and read her text books into the night until fatigue lulled her to sleep.
Then one day, some women showed up at the restaurant where she worked. They identified themselves as representatives of a group called Shakti Samuha, a non-profit anti-human trafficking organisation, and recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2013.