Many people, especially privileged populations from developed countries (i.e. Americans), believe slavery ended long ago, not only in the U.S., but globally. Few people know that slavery is still very much alive in several parts of the globe, like in Pakistan, although it is known by a different name there.
My attention was first brought to ‘bonded labor’ through the Humans of New York (HONY) Facebook page. HONY has made a campaign with activist Syeda Ghulam Fatima to raise funds for her work to end bonded labor.
Before I get too ahead of myself, what is ‘bonded labor,’ and why is it so important that it is stopped? No one could explain it better than HONY in their first of seven posts spotlighting the issue.
“I want to conclude the Pakistan series by spotlighting a very special change agent who is working to eradicate one of the nation’s most pressing social ills. Over 20,000 brick kilns operate in Pakistan, supported by millions of workers, and the system is largely underpinned by an extremely close cousin of slavery—bonded labor. Throughout rural Pakistan, illiterate and desperate laborers are tricked into accepting small loans in exchange for agreeing to work at brick kilns for a small period of time. But due to predatory terms, their debt balloons, growing larger as time goes on, with no possibility of repayment, until these laborers are condemned to work for the rest of their lives for no compensation. If the laborer dies, the debt is passed on to his or her children. The practice is illegal. But due to the extreme power and wealth of brick kiln owners, the law is often unenforced in rural areas. It is estimated that well over one million men, women, and children are trapped in this modern feudalist system.” - from the Humans of New York Facebook page, written by the creator of the page Brandon Stanton
HONY continues with six stories from men and women trapped in the bonded labor system, forced to work off an ever-increasing debt that will passed onto their children. With 20,000 brick kilns across Pakistan, HONY estimates more than 1.4 million people and their families are enslaved through bonded labor. Laborers are beaten, exploited, and sold by the kiln owners, whom are very rich and powerful.
To help raise awareness for this growing issue, which is very often swept under the rug by the global (and even Pakistani) media, HONY has helped raise awareness (and funds) for Fatima, who is described as a “modern day Harriet Tubman,” as HONY credits her.
If you are interested in reading about Fatima, who is an incredible woman who has done incredible things to bring attention to and help end bonded labor in Pakistan, more can be read on her fundraising page . And consider donating to her cause, as she helps eradicate the debts of bonded laborers and their families. Let’s help Fatima help even more laborers, and start similar movements in Nepal and India (where some bonded labor exists as well).
The six laborer profiles HONY wrote about and published on their accounts are linked below;
***NOTE: We are no way associated with HONY or Fatima, and definitely do not take credit for any of the quotes or posts linked in this piece!