From kamlari to MP

Shanta Chaudhary.

Shanta Chaudhary’s journey from kamlari to Member of Parliament has been a long and difficult one. The harrowing details of her childhood as a slave are recorded in her 2013 biography Kamlari Dekhi Sabhasad Samma.

At the age of eight, Chaudhary was ‘leased’ for Rs7,000 to her ‘owner’ in Dang, and years of trauma followed. “I could withstand the physical pain,” Chaudhary told the Nepali Times in a profile from 2012. “But what was unbearable was not being able to see my parents.”

Chaudhary had a burning desire to go to school as did the children of the family she was indentured to, and to read and play like others her age. But all she was allowed to do was stand in a corner and watch the family's children dress in their uniforms and leave for their lessons. As a teenager, Chaudhary defended herself from unwanted advances of men in the household and married her friend Harsha Lal for companionship and to keep herself safe.

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Chaudhary’s desire for justice led her to join the UML party and she was nominated to the Constituent Assembly in 2008. Along the way, she taught herself to read and write. Chaudhary was diagnosed with cancer of the uterus in 2016, but is responding well to treatment.

“I have struggled a lot in my life, and I got to tick cancer off my list too,” Chaudhary told us this week in between Parliament committee meetings. She takes her job as a law-maker seriously and says that after her tenure in Parliament is over, she will continue to work to remove the last vestiges of modern-day slavery from Nepal.

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She adds: “I want to fight for those who cannot stand up for themselves. I never want a child or any human being to go through the same pain and struggle as I did.”

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