myrna balk, artist
etchings, woodcuts, and monoprints sculpture photographs artist statement and bio fiber arts

by tara age 32Art by Nepali Women who had been trafficked

Downtrodden by oppressive village social structures, Nepali girls and women are all too ready to believe the traffickers' false promises. Instead of having better lives as domestics or factory workers, almost all of the women find themselves locked in brothels.

Myrna was invited by five Kathmandu shelters to draw with women and girls. Most were illiterate and had never been to school. She was astonished to see the results of the art sessions. The women were extremely proud of their work and delighted in their sense of accomplishment. The participants also wanted Myrna to exhibit the drawings. They explained that they had found a voice through drawing.

The following images are some of the drawings by these women.

Tara explained to Myrna: "In this picture, a man is showing a woman his home. He says he wants to marry her but he really plans to take her to a brothel in India. In my casse I was sent away from my home because I had not given birth to a son. I took my husband to court for support, but lost the case. I have three daughters, ages 5, 9, and 11. I came to Nav Jyoti, a training center. I look forward to going home and telling women in my village about the rights of children and about justice."

bina, age 21

Bina was facing a desperate domestic situation when she was tricked into sex slavery in India. She told Myrna:"I was told I had to marry a man older than my father. I did not like that and left the village with a lady who promised me a job doing domestic work. This job was so bad I ran away when the woman of the house died. The lady who took me to the city found me and offered me a better job. I was sent to a brothel in India. While I was working in the brothel and crying, a customer took pity on me and gave me money to return to Kathmandu." She entered a shelter for women with HIV.

by Kumi, age 20Kumi told Myrna about her drawing: "The parents are depressed because a broker took their child away from them. It shows a place where girls are taken and given cruel treatment. Letters are drawn on the right side of the picture because now the girl is learning to read." This 20-year-old woman explained that she had no chance to go to school. She wants to study but she thinks she is too old. She loves the experience of learning to read. In 1996, Kuml was brought back to Nepal from India, where she was a held captive in a brothel. She immediately returned home, but was ostracized by her village. She then went to ABC Nepal, an NGO that shelters former sex slaves. ABC Nepal is working to educate the village, in the hope that they will take herback.

by gomaGoma explained her drawing: "One day a lady from the brothel network came to the village offering jobs in a carpet factory. My parents sent me with the woman. My parents were given the first month's wages. I was there a month, working very long hours doing hard work. The same lady came back and offered to get me a better job. I was then sold into a brothel in Bombay. As soon as I got there I knew what it was. Everyone cried. The owner was a lady. I was there three years before the Indian government raided the place and sent the girls back home to Nepal."

by Kamala, age 18Kamala explained that her drawing is a message about society and family: "A ten-year-old child is shown in this picture; she is required to marry a man of 35 to 40. The square around the figure represents the nation of Nepal, the people of the village, and their customs and traditions. The girl is always restricted and kept inside, deprived of everything. From the day of birth, family and society deprive the girl child. She marries and life is still bad."

Before her leadership training at a shelter, Kamala said that she felt powerless. But now she hopes to organize women in the village and further community development.

The following are the NGOs which help abused and trafficked women in Nepal:

  • ABC Nepal, which shelters victims of domestic abuse and sex trafficking. Contact Durga Ghimire.
  • Maiti Nepal, which shelters women and girls returned from brothels in India Contact Anuradha Koirala.
  • Karuna Bhawan, which shelters women surrering from AIDS. Contact Sister Deepa.
  • Nava Jyoti, which includes a leadership training program. Contact Sister Teresa.
  • The Women's Foundation, which shelters women with children. Contact Tara Upreti.
  • Association of Dalit Women, an NGO that helps low-caste women. Contact Bishnu Maya Pariyar.

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June 5, 2008
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