Lizzie Sadin

The Trap : Trafficking of Women in Nepal

8th edition

Carmignac Photojournalism Award

Following a call for applications in July 2016, the jury, presided by Monique Villa, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, has chosen to give a voice to Nepalese women by selecting Lizzie Sadin’s project. After three months of reporting in the field between February and May 2017, the photojournalist has brought back a deeply moving testimony on genderbased human trafficking, which is deeply rooted it is in Nepalese society.

In 2015, an earthquake of 7.8 on the Richter scale shook Nepal, killing 9,000 and causing 6,500 people to be displaced. Nepal’s political instability, the extreme precariousness of its population – one quarter of whom lives below the poverty line – and the failings of its education system mean that the country is struggling to recover from this disaster and must now confront a emerging new phenomenon: human trafficking.
This trafficking principally affects women. The influence of cultural traditions which maintain women’s status as inferior beings, or even as possessions, is still strong. 20,000 young girls are exploited in the sex industry of Kathmandu and more than 300,000 of them emigrate in order to take up “employment” as domestic workers.

After three months of reporting for the Carmignac Photojournalism Award, from February to May 2017, Lizzie Sadin has released a poignant account of the women and young girls tricked by their agents, “friends” or even family members who exploits their hope of a better life, or who are simply handed over by their loved ones for money.

Thanks to this investigation, the unique images of Lizzie Sadin bring this gender-based human trafficking out of the shadows, and highlight how this trade is – now more than ever – part of the fabric of Nepalese society.

Rita, 17 ans, Chabahil, quartier nord de Katmandou, avril 2017© Lizzie Sadin pour la Fondation Carmignac
Birgunj, district de Hetuda, mai 2017 © Lizzie Sadin pour la Fondation Carmignac

The Laureate

Born in France, Lizzie Sadin devotes the first ten years of her career to the educational and social work. She is successively an educator, a youth worker and a vocational trainer: adults, workers in retraining programs, and illeterate young people. She developed a singular outlook on the world around her.

Inspired by the pictures of humanist photographers such as Sebastiao Salagado, Eugene Smith, Dorothea Lange or Walker Evans, she decides in 1992 to focus on photography and, in turn, bear witness to realities that are too often overlooked. She joined Robert Doisneau’s Rapho agency in 1994 and concentrates on in-depth reportages on human rights.

This human-centric field of expertise lead her to tackle a variety of subjects: conflict zones in Israel and Kosovo, to climate issues in the Amazon and Silesia, to illegal immigration in Europe. The trafficking of women becomes a major area of concentration from 2004, when she produces a reportage on the marriage of underage girls in Ethiopia. In 2007 and 2009, respectively, she investigates the status of women in Moldavia and sex tourism and the exploitation of minors in Madagascar but also the trade in women in Israel “Promised Land, Promised Woman…” in 2010 for the Prix Pierre Boulat. Lizzie Sadin has also spent several years working on the conditions of detention of children around the world. Her illustrated book “Mineurs en peine” won the Visa d’Or award in 2007 and was published in paperback by Actes Sud

Lizzie Sadin © Corinne Bourbotte

This issue is virtually unknown abroad, but also in Nepal and especially by Nepalese women. Behind the attractive images of Hindu temples or trek roads in the Himalayan mountains, a whole other reality is hidden.

Lizzie sadin
Ashika, 23 ans, Cabin restaurant, Usha Bar, Kalanki, quartier de Katmandou, mars 2017

The Trap

It often starts the same way: A stranger, a friend or, even, more often than not, an uncle or cousin will dangle promises of a better life to a Nepalese girl. Wearing expensive clothes or jewelry, they will talk of jobs that will pay enough to feed their entire families; they will talk of new prospects in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, or in India, Malaysia or Kuwait.

Rita had that conversation when she was just 16. Living in poverty in the small village of Jappa in the east of Nepal, she was told that a better life awaited her in India, just a few miles away. That’s when the trap slowly closed on her. Crossing the border with her “friend”, Rita was left with a man that forced her, along with many other girls and women locked in the same building, to prostitute herself, often with 15 to 20 men a day.

In Nepal, these stories are all too familiar. The country remains the poorest state in South Asia, with a quarter of its population living under the poverty line. The economic situation worsened in 2015, after Nepal was hit by a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake that killed 9,000 people and displaced 650,000. 

For many families, finding any kind of paid work became a desperate necessity and that’s what the traffickers count on; that’s when the trap, one that has been carefully set, closes on these young women.

There are an estimated 20,000 sexual workers in Kathmandu, who sell their services in cabin restaurants, dance bars, dohoris and massage parlors. Between 5,000 and 10,000 women are trafficked each year from Nepal to India, joining the hundreds of thousands who have already been smuggled or chose to emigrate to find work overseas.

[…] That abuse takes many forms – from forced bondage to physical and sexual abuse.

According to the organization Maiti Nepal, which recently surveyed female Nepalese workers returning from the Gulf, 67% of them suffered from serious health issues, including psychological wounds. While not every Nepalese woman goes through Rita’s ordeal, many are left scarred by many years of forced servitude.

Olivier laurent
Thamel, quartier central de Katmandou
© Lizzie Sadin pour la Fondation Carmignac

The Jury

Monique Villa, CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation and Founder of Trust Women

Elizabeth Avedon, Independent Curator specialized in photography books

Francesca Fabiani, Photography Special Projects, Department for Contemporary Art and Architecture,
Ministry of Culture, Italy

Thierry Grillet, Chief Curator of Bibliothèque nationale de France (BNF)

Olivier Laurent, Photo Editor of the Washington Post

Élisabeth Quin, Journalist, writer and Arte TV Presenter (28 Minutes)

Narciso Contreras, Laureate of the 8th Edition

King Road Street, quartier central de Kathmandou, avril 2017
© Lizzie Sadin pour la Fondation Carmignac


Evénement terminé

Hôtel de l’Industrie, Paris

2 Rue Gustave Goublier, 75010 Paris
Eventement terminé

Saatchi Gallery, Londres

Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Rd, Chelsea, London SW3 4RY


The Trap : Trafficking of Women in Nepal

Co-published by: Skira/ Fondation Carmignac
Release date: November 7, 2017
Bilingual: French/English
Size: 24 × 28 cm, 111 pages
Contributors: Stéphen Rostain, Sam Cowie, Tommaso Protti
Price: 35 euros, 45 USD, 58 CAD, 35 GBP
Distributed by: Harmonia Mundi

TT “Lizzie Sadin, winner of the Carmignac Prize for photojournalism, made a remarkable report on human trafficking in Nepal. Step by step, she follows the associations that help young girls. She goes behind the scenes of creepy nightclubs with her camera under her coat. Often placed as close as possible to her subject, she lets violence and misery permeate. A long, serious, generous, moving work.”

“For her four-month report on Nepal, French photographer Lizzie Sadin won the Carmignac Foundation’s Photojournalism Award. A shocking testimony on the human trafficking of Nepalese women and girls, this photographic work shows how the earthquake (9,000 dead) has thrown this population, weakened by unemployment and precariousness, into slavery.”

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