The brick industry is booming in Nepal. Rapid urbanization, increased demand for infrastructure development projects, and the April 2015 earthquakes are the main drivers for the brick industry’s rapid expansion. As a result, there is increased demand for brick laborers. These laborers are typically children and people from marginalized communities, who are recruited in their villages and provided cash advances by local brokers from distant brick factories. The cash advances are used to run households, pay debts, and cover unexpected expenses. Once the families are indebted, they have no choice but to work in the brick factories.
Laborers are paid on a per-brick basis, which means that parents often need all the hands in the family to contribute long hours to earn back the advance they have spent. Children (and adults) working in brick factories are exposed to lung-damaging levels of dust, extreme heat from kilns that fire bricks, and health problems stemming from extreme physical labor combined with poor nutrition.
World Education’s Building Better Futures initiative reduces child labor and exploitation provides support services to families both at factories throughout the Kathmandu Valley and Sarlahi and in their homes communities. World Education Nepal’s holistic approach aims to educate brick workers’ children, expand livelihood options and provide access to financial services to break the cycle of exploitative labor.
Education for Child Laborers and Out-of-School Youth
Children who work in brick kilns show poor academic performance and demonstrate high levels of absenteeism, which results in some of the lowest learning outcomes in the country. In order to address this challenge, World Education’s model incorporates four major educational activities: coaching, scholarships, strengthening government schools, and literacy classes.
To support her family, Sharadha, a young girl from Nepal, was forced to drop out of school. Instead of learning, she worked 12 hours a day in the same brick factory where her mother died.
World Education’s Building Better Futures program enrolled Sharadha in a nonformal education class targeting children who are forced to work in the brick industry, and helped Sharadha transition back to formal school. Beyond basic education, World Education empowers children like Sharadha with tools and life skills to identify and avoid exploitative labor.
After six months of nonformal education, Sharadha was admitted to Janata Secondary School as a grade three student. Now she is in grade seven, and hopes to become a nurse to help people.
Sharadha is among thousands of children forced to endure life-threatening working conditions to support their families. Each year World Education and its partners help more than 850 former child laborers like Sharadha to enroll in school through Building Better Futures.
Expanding and Improving Livelihood Options
With limited options for livelihoods and income generation, many poor families are ultimately forced to work in brick factories. World Education Nepal and its partners devised several activities and interventions to diversify families’ livelihood options and create new opportunities for income generation. One particular opportunity is the Farmer Field School.
Shanti joined the Farmers’ Field School at a difficult period in her life. Her husband was working abroad and Shanti could barely cover basic household expenses. Her children dropped out of school to become brick laborers. Through the skills she learned from the Farmer’s Field School, Shanti raises cows and sells milk, vegetables, and goats. With the new source of income, she and her family can stay in their home village and avoid the exploitative and hazardous conditions of the brick factories. She now earns enough to support her children and can afford to send them to school regularly.
Developing Financial Literacy and Improving Access to Financial Services
To address the financial instability that often drives families to accept exploitative labor in the brick factories, World Education’s financial literacy interventions aim to impart financial management skills to people in brick kilns and strengthen their financial resiliency.
Shiv Chandar Chaudhary of Sarlahi district used to work as brick kiln laborer. Back then, life was hard for him. In 2014, he received veterinary training through World Education. After the training, he started providing veterinary services to his own livestock and neighboring villages’ livestock. Today, his income has increased, he no longer works in a hazardous brick kiln, and his neighbors generate higher incomes too because their livestock are healthier.
Building Better Futures
World Education and its partners are empowering families in Nepal to break the cycle of exploitative labor in brick factories. Building Better Futures creates opportunities for children who work in brick factories to continue their education. It provides families with resources and skills to pursue alternative ways of making a livelihood. Perhaps more importantly, it helps individuals like Sharadha, Shanti, and Shiv realize that their lives can have a new hope and that they are not resigned to a fate of dangerous labor in the brick factories.