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Learning New Work

This is a case of a 13-year-old girl who was separated from her family. Her name and details have been changed to protect her privacy.

Shanti’s parents struggled to earn a living in Nepal and made the difficult decision to go abroad for work. Eventually the parents divorced and the father remarried. While Shanti’s mother was away working, her father and grandmother sent Shanti to a religious school far away in India and did not inform the mother or Shanti’s elder brother. When Shanti’s mother came home to see her she was told Shanti was in a nearby boarding school, but unable to visit. Over time Shanti’s mother threatened family members with legal action if they did not tell her where her daughter was. The mother was given a contact number for her daughter’s religious school in India.

In the midst of this difficult time Shanti’s father, step-mother and their young son died while using a wood stove to warm their home while they slept. Shanti’s mother was called home by her son and continued to try and find her daughter. With the help of social worker and child welfare organizations Shanti’s mother was able to extricate her daughter from the religious school and bring her to a safe shelter back in Nepal.

This was a very confusing time for Shanti as she had been thoroughly immersed in a highly controlled and religious life for over two years. The religious group continued to pressure the girl’s mother and case workers to return her to India.

Nepal House was requested to help support and reunite the family. They provided family counselling and worked closely with Shanti, her mother and brother. It took time to build connection and trust between the family members. They also had to endure more legal proceedings as Shanti’s grandmother filed a kidnapping charge against the child welfare organization in the supreme court in Kathmandu. Nepal House helped the family work with their fears and worries about the court case. The supreme court ruled in favour of Shanti’s mother. Shanti is now living with her mother and brother at home and attending a good school. Now they are feeling safe and happy to be together as a family.

This is my first case to deal with a serious legal process and not only counsel the client and family, but also work closely with government agencies and child welfare organizations. In the beginning I was unsure and shared my concerns with the Nepal House counsellor team who provided support and help. This was a good opportunity to expand my skills and learn more about working multiple social service and legal organizations.

Bina Pun

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