While traveling through Asia this year, I’ve gotten used to being in the minority in a room. We’ve been to 2 of the 4 most populous nations in the world, so being an American girl in Asia is quite a small percentage. But I had a new first as a minority this past week.
After spending 2 great weeks in Kathmandu, Nepal, we packed our bags to travel back to Southeast Asia. We had a one-way flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Our flight to Nepal was QUITE empty on Air Asia, and we each had rows to ourselves. Foolishly, we expected the same upon leaving the country as well. Not so true.
We were booked on a totally full flight with 377 seats, where I was the only American girl leaving Nepal. In fact, I was one of 3 Westerners [my husband and a Dutch guy], and one of 10 women entirely.
Why are all these men leaving Nepal????
The answer is simply to work. Nepal has over 46 percent unemployment in the country, so men of working ages are accepting jobs in Southeast Asia and the Middle East every day. Sadly, these opportunities may not be the dream job they signed up for.
The most common story in the news lately of Nepali workers being exploited is in Qatar in the Middle East, building the 2022 World Cup Stadiums. This shocking ESPN documentary uncovers the true horrors they are living out.
“The assumed figures says more than 4000 workers from India and Nepal will die before the ball kicks off in 2022 world cup in Qatar for the preparations.” says a quote in a May 2014 Guardian article.
But Qatar is not the only nation that is working Nepalis to the point of death. Several other nations contribute to this atrocity. Including Malaysia, which was exactly where we were flying.
Ishwar Rauniyar, a reporter with BBC’s weekly debate programme, said 253 Nepali workers died in Malaysia last year, making it one of the “deadliest destinations” for them to come and work.
I knew all this as I’m sitting on the 5 hour flight from Kathmandu to Kuala Lumpur. I knew that some of these Nepali men on my flight, the same ones who couldn’t figure out how to work the airplane toilet or when to fasten their seat belts, were expectant, full of hope about the their new job, and would never return to Nepal.
This is not OK.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless in this situation. I couldn’t tell them all to turn back. I couldn’t give them the money they needed to provide for their families. But I can’t be silent.
I will speak up for them. I will speak out for them.