Why School for Upali disciples?
Upali was a disciple of Guatama Buddha. He was born into the Sudra caste, which is the lowest in the caste system. Sudras were considered dirty and untouchable by every other caste. They were extremely poor and segregated from the rest of society. They were not allowed to go to school, go to the same temples, have conversations with, or even have the same source of drinking water as other castes. Sudras could not even dream of going to school or having any sort of education, since they could not sit with children from other castes. Due to being cut off from education, Sudras were destined to remain as untouchables for generations.
When Upali grew up, his parents asked him to learn to become a barber. Upali became the barber of Gautama Buddha, a renowned prince from a high caste who had renounced his wealth. One day, Upali’s mother asked Buddha what he thought of her son’s skills. Buddha told his mother that he bows too low. Upali then straightened his back. His mother asked Buddha what he thought now. Buddha replied that his body seems to be straight, but his mind still bows low. When Upali heard this, he concentrated his attention and it is said he achieved the second stage of meditation.
Upali wanted to join Buddha’s order and learn under him, but he stopped when he thought of his low background. One day, Buddha’s disciple, Sariputra, found Upali weeping on the roadside. Sariputra encouraged Upali to join the order and become ordained, explaining that anyone, even an outcaste, can become Buddha’s disciple if he observes the precepts. Upali went on to become one of the Buddha’s leading disciples, and was ordained even before any of the princes. The princes prostrated before Upali, and he was deeply moved.
Our hope for School of Upali Disciples is for children of all castes to learn side by side with each other, and learn values of equality, cooperationand community. We hope to use Upali as a role model for our children, and show them that they can grow up to be leaders, regardless of their birth origins. Girls from lower castes experience extreme segregation and prejudice both because of their family origin and because of their gender. However, social change must start from those being pushed the lowest. Today’s lowest caste girls can be tomorrow’s best leaders, if they are just given the chance. School of Upali Disciples is critically needed to empower these girls to be the force of positive change in their homes and communities.
Child labour is a major problem in the Terai. It includes children working as domestic servants or as kamalari(slavery), as well as children leaving, or being forced to leave school in order to seek employment in India or other countries. Low-caste, illiterate children, orphans and children without parental care are particularly vulnerable. Children work in hotels, restaurants, transportation, brick factories, and collection of raw materials, on farms and as domestic labour; older children often travel to India for work. There are reported cases of abuse occurring in places of employment.
Although child labour was widely acknowledged as a factor that limits the ability of children to enjoy other rights such as education, respondents often saw it as an inherent part of life for many children.
Trafficking of girls to Korea for the purpose of marriage
Trafficking of Nepali young women for the purpose of marriage to Korea is reported widely through media and Nepali working in Korea. According to YouTube news in www.nepalikorea.com published in July 12, 2012, the Department of Immigration of Korea has recorded about 200,000 foreign girl marriages with Korean men. Among them, 500-600 are estimated to be Nepali girls. It is reported that every month, 15-20 Nepali girls are lured to Korea for marriage. The Government of Korea adopts pro-natalist population policy thereby encouraging Korean people to have birth of children. This is because the birth rates of Korea are fast declining because Korean women normally do not like to have births.
One way of balancing this situation is to encourage and permit Korean men to marry girls from abroad. To facilitate the marriage process from abroad, there are currently 1,200 Marriage Bureaus operating in Korea. These Bureaus have established linkages in different countries including in Nepal through individuals or institutional basis. These individuals/institutions provide false promises and dreams to girls living in poverty, scarcity, unemployment and ignorance. The individuals (agents) are said to be those who have already been in Korea. It is said that they receive a huge amount of money by sending girls to Korea.
It is reported that 90 per cent of Nepali girls who married with Korean men is believed to be the victims of trafficking or are in the state of modern-day slavery or slavery like situation. Poor, old, disabled, and physically weak Korean men look for girls for marriage from abroad as they do not normally get Korean girls to marry. Thus, there is mismatch.
Marriage of an old man with a fairly young girl. Multiple marriages are also reported. Once, the girls are married they become enslaved: they are not allowed to go outside the household, visit the Nepali people living in Korea, call their parents and relatives in Nepal. Further, they are not provided adequate food; they are abused, physically beaten and they are considered as a machine for reproduction (Case 2.2). The Nepali Human Rights Activists and Journalists working in Korea reported that there is gross violation of human rights of Nepali girls marrying with Korean men and the situation is much worse than that of brothels in New Delhi and Mumbai. In Korea, according to Human Rights Activities and Journalists in the YouTube, it is known that Korean men can give divorced to their wives in a single minute – thus there is no right of women.