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Michigan organization combating child marriage and labor in Nepal

Michigan organization combating child marriage and labor in Nepal
Michigan organization combating child marriage and labor in Nepal 02:13

(CBS DETROIT) -  A Michigan organization is working in Nepal to protect children vulnerable to discrimination and abuse.

"It was a challenging trip," said Heather Williams, the president of Silence Softly Speaks. Her Michigan-based organization works to combat the conditions that lead to human trafficking. In April, Williams traveled to Nepal.

"In Nepal, what you have is a lot of child labor, and also early marriages," said Williams.

She said in some parts of Nepal it is often the women and girls who carry the burden of labor and agricultural work. 

Silence Softly Speaks teamed up with the Belgian group, Mission East for the trip. 

"We went to one of the poorest, most remote areas of Nepal, called the Karnili Region."

Williams said there, gender discrimination and caste discrimination are deeply rooted in society.

"There is a custom called Chaupadi, which is when young girls begin to menstruate. They are locked away in a hut. And a lot of women have died. It is outlawed in Nepal, but it's still practiced in this remote region."

She said for most girls, their education ends around second grade. If not then, around age 14.

"When girls begin to menstruate, there is not. The facilities there aren't suitable for the girls to continue school. You don't have separate bathrooms; you don't have running water," said Williams.

Fourteen years old is also when girls are often married and start having children.

"The child mortality rate is pretty high with young girls having babies."

For their trip, they focused on one specific school and making it easier for girls to continue their education. They built a cistern with running water, and a separate toilet for girls to use. They also donated educational supplies. 

"The response was overwhelming."

Williams said their work is not done. Silence Softly Speaks plans to expand its assistance to health care and agricultural education.  

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