Pulling children out of Nepal’s prisons (+Video)

Kathmandu, Nepal (CNN) — Pushpa Basnet doesn’t need an alarm clock. Every morning, the sounds of 40 children wake her up in the two-story home she shares with them.

As she helps the children dress for school, Basnet might appear to be a housemother of sorts. But the real story is more complicated.

All of these children once lived in Nepal’s prisons. This 28-year-old woman has saved every one of them from a life behind bars.

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world — according to UNICEF, 55% of the population lives below the international poverty line — so it lacks the social safety net that exists in most Western nations. Space is extremely limited in the few children’s homes affiliated with the government.

So when no local guardian is available, an arrested parent often must choose between bringing their children to jail with them or letting them live on the streets. Nepal’s Department of Prison Management estimates 80 children live in the nation’s prisons.

“It’s not fair for (these) children to live in the prison because they haven’t done anything wrong,” said Basnet, who started a nongovernmental organization to help. “My mission is to make sure no child grows up behind prison walls.”

Basnet is one of several in Nepal who have started groups to get children out of prison. Since 2005, she has assisted more than 100 children of incarcerated parents. She runs a day care program for children under 6 and a residential home where mostly older children receive education, food, medical care and a chance to live a more normal life.

Since 2005, Pushpa Basnet has assisted more than 100 children of incarcerated parents.
Since 2005, Pushpa Basnet has assisted more than 100 children of incarcerated parents.

“I had a very fortunate life, with a good education,” Basnet said. “I should give it to somebody else.”

Basnet was just 21 when she discovered her calling, she said. While her family ran a successful business, she was studying social work in college. As part of her studies, she visited a women’s prison and was appalled by the dire conditions. She also was shocked to discover children living behind bars.

One baby girl grabbed Basnet’s shawl and gave her a big smile.

“I felt she was calling me,” Basnet said. “I went back home and told my parents about it. They told me it was a normal thing and that in a couple of days I’d forget it. But I couldn’t forget.”  full story at source