How does a degree in pharmacy lead to a career fighting child labor in Nepal? Uddhav Poudyal, country coordinator for Winrock’s Country Level Engagement and Assistance To Reduce Child Labor II (CLEAR II) project, has spent his life finding out.
A native of Kathmandu, Poudyal (pictured above, left) traveled to India’s Nagpur University in 1976 to earn a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy, supported by a scholarship program from the Government of India. Following his graduation in 1981, he returned to work in his home country of Nepal. He spent the next 10 years working for the Government of Nepal and various private companies, conducting pharmaceutical research in herbal medicines.
In 1992, Poudyal joined Save the Children UK as a pharmacy coordinator. This position involved helping to set up a refugee camp in eastern Nepal. His experiences at this camp, which served nearly 110,000 people over the course of its existence, awakened his passion for human rights.
“They later asked me to be a planning coordinator because of my skill and confidence,” Poudyal says. “That was one of the very good experiences by which I was somewhat inducted on the rights of the child and issues of trafficking, child labor[and] child protection.”
Armed with this newfound experience and enthusiasm, Poudyal delved deeper into civil society work, eventually becoming a senior program officer with Save the Children. He later spent 14 years with the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Nepal before becoming an independent development consultant specializing in child rights, migration, social protection and social welfare services. It was this consulting work that led Poudyal to Winrock and CLEAR II; he had earlier provided volunteer services on the Community-based Innovations to Reduce Child Labor through Education (CIRCLE I and CIRCLE II) projects.
In 2015, Poudyal joined Winrock’s CLEAR II project, funded by the United States Department of Labor, as its country coordinator. He says that Winrock’s “unique approach” to solving child labor problems in Nepal stands out in the field.
“CLEAR II is actually targeted to work at the policy level,” Poudyal explains, “to change the policies and build the capacity of the government officials as well as civil society, so that we can prevent child labor and prevent trafficking-in-persons, particularly focusing on children.” The project’s policy-focused action has far-reaching results because it works across areas and municipalities, “which will protect a large number of children from trafficking.”
Poudyal’s work has not been without challenges. “Most communities are not aware that child trafficking is happening in their area, because they are used to saying that we don’t have this issue,” Poudyal says. “But Winrock has somehow identified those issues and worked with [the government] to develop capacity so that they can manage their responsibility effectively and efficiently.”
At the end of this month, Poudyal will retire from Winrock after nearly 25 years of supporting child rights and child protection. But the work that he and CLEAR II have done leave a legacy that will protect Nepal’s most vulnerable for years to come.