Eliminating bonded labour in Nepal: the example of the Bridge Project

December 2, 2021

In order to decrease their vulnerability and ensure they never fall back into forced labour situations, the ILO’s Bridge Project is supporting former bonded labourers of Nepal through livelihood trainings.

Photo (header): Pushpa Lohar, beneficiariy trained in painting, Kanchanpur, Nepal, 2021 (© ILO)Featured image: Manish Serela, beneficiariy trained in mobile phone reparir, Bajura, Nepal, 2021 (© ILO)


In Nepal, traditional forms of forced labour were abolished in the 2000s – in particular debt bondage systems, like the Kamaiya and Haliyas. Under these systems, thousands of workers, sometimes entire families, were forced to work to repay an ever-increasing debt. They had to work for landlords, spending hours ploughing the fields or herding cattle in remote areas of the country.

Despite being freed, these communities are still extremely vulnerable, unaware of their rights, unable to assert them, while also facing discrimination. They are still in need of support to ensure they work and live in decent conditions.

The ILO’s Bridge Project, funded by the US Department of Labor, has implemented a rehabilitation program in Nepal for former bonded labourers. The Project partnered with Nepal’s Government, social partners and associations of former bonded labourers to offer skills trainings to 700 freed bonded labours.

This pilot programme allowed beneficiaries to sustainably improve their labour skills, increase their income, but also to fight discrimination and gender prejudice.

Watch the video to discover testimonies from ex-bonded labourers and how the Bridge project was able to support them.

For more details, you can also read the stories of two beneficiaries formerly in debt bondage, Birendra, who become a self-employed plumber, and Padma, who is now able to support her family thanks to her vegetable-growing trade.