Raju Maharjan is a project officer in Nepal for the project in the brick kilns. He explains his job to us, the bad situation the children are faced with and how becoming a father himself changed his view on those issues. Take five minutes to meet him.
Infocenter: What is your job about?
Raju Maharjan: My job is to facilitate the project of Tdh in the brick kilns. We wish to increase the feeling of social responsibility of the entrepreneurs that run those factories. The situation there is quite tough: very poor sanitation facilities (when any), difficult access to safe drinking water and nutritious food. We try to increase their awareness to make them understand that the living and working conditions of their employees are their problem too. Practically speaking, one of our major jobs is to implement child development centres (day-care centres) with shared responsibility of entrepreneurs where children under five years of age are well taken care of for optimal physical, mental and social well being. We are advocating for the establishment of a kiln based code of conduct and we run a joint committee together with the workers and the entrepreneurs to monitor the situation.
IC: What is the children’s situation and what are the expected results you want to reach?
R.M: Young children are usually with their parents. Some of them, from the age of five or six, start to work a little bit. Teenagers do come to the brick kilns by themselves, in groups, together to work as transporters. The work is tough, with heavy loads, and sometimes dangerous, but what we want the families to be aware of is that the environment in itself is really putting the smaller children at risk. Furthermore, issues of health and protection are arising very often. The families and the broader community do not know how to deal with those problems and how to prevent them. An important part of our work focuses on awareness sessions.
IC: The people in the brick kilns usually come from rural areas and they are seasonal workers. Aren’t you afraid that the actions you undertake are lost at the end of the season?
R.M: Actually not, I think that what you do reach even more people. When the families leave the brick kilns at the end of the season and go back to their villages, they can spread the knowledge they were given and sensitise their neighbours to change their behaviour too.
IC: Let’s talk a bit about you. What is your history?
R.M: Well, I had several jobs in my past. I started working during my studies as computer trainer just before I entered into NGO field. I have had several functions: as a teacher, as a sales representative, etc. Then, I started to train people and I liked it very much. I became disaster preparedness training officer in Nepal and this is how I got to know more about the NGOs. I even worked for a Tdh partner, HRDC, few years ago. I enjoyed this experience very much and I loved working for the children. Then I got the chance to start working with Tdh, in the brick kilns’ project.
IC: The brick kilns are an environment you are familiar with, aren’t you?
R.M: My father worked for 30 years in a brick factory (built by Chinese Government Assistance but modernized one not exactly like the one i.e. Bull Trench brick kiln where we are working.). We are coming from a farming family, but the land provided with food for only six months per year. As a result, my father worked at a factory all his life. As children, we were really fortunate: the brick kiln was close to home, we did not have to leave our place. Furthermore, my parents really did believe in education, and we therefore could attend school. I graduated and studied. We were lucky.
IC: Do you have a family yourself?
R.M: Yes, I am married and have a little daughter. This has definitely changed the way I see my job. I am much more sensitive than before. The children I meet every day could be my own.
IC: How do you see the future in the brick kilns?
R.M: I don’t think that the brick kilns will go on the way they are. The future is not bright for them in my opinion. First of all, there is no space left for them to work. They also badly need to modernise. They are more and more faced with other stakeholders’ concurrence, like Chinese factories implemented in Nepal for example. The people that run them are money driven and not motivated to change. Yet, they have to understand that it is their business to see that the conditions in their factories improve. My job is to make it clear to them. It is challenging, but I love the fact that the most vulnerable children benefit directly from what I do.