Humans of Pakistan

From New York to Pakistan, people are uniting to combat modern day slavery.

Most recently: the popular photoblog Humans of New York raised awareness of enslaved Pakistani laborers—and nearly two million dollars to help set them free.

Founded in 2010, Humans of New York connects its followers and its subjects, sharing photos and stories that showcase the human condition and provide a sense of community where only divergence existed before. As the project evolved, HONY founder Brandon Stanton incorporated grassroots philanthropy.

Stanton traveled to Lahore, Pakistan, where he encountered Syeda Ghulam Fatima, an organizer for the Bonded Labour Liberation Front. Through a series of photographs shared on Humans of New York’s website, Twitter Feed, and Facebook page, readers learned about how debt bondage ruins lives and destroys families, all for the profit of the corrupt.

Stanton leveraged his extensive network—with over 13 million followers on Facebook alone—to raise nearly two million dollars for Fatima, who will use the funds to help some of the 4 million estimated Pakistanis trapped in slavery, offering freedom from debt and rehabilitation for survivors.

In Pakistan and throughout India debt bondage is common. Laborers are offered small “loans” to cover emergency needs in exchange for a commitment to work for a limited period of time. But as laborers strive to pay off their debt, interest compiles and false surcharges are added and the debt spirals out of control. The initial loan is a false promise meant to ensnare desperate people. Even death does not offer release, as debts are passed on to family members, creating a new generation of false indebtedness.

Although these practices are illegal, factory owners wield significant influence among law enforcement so the exploitation continues unabated. Similar methods of forced labor through debt bondage are practiced throughout the world, often infiltrating the supply chains of legitimate businesses and contributing to the estimated $150 billion dollars earned annually by human traffickers.

Debt bondage is a major form of human trafficking, but one of the least talked about. Although most of the profits of trafficking come from commercial sexual exploitation, the vast majority of trafficking victims are those who have fallen prey to forced labor—an estimated 14.2 million people worldwide.

Human Rights First applauds HONY and its followers for drawing attention to the plight of enslaved laborers and their support for Syeda Ghlam Fatima.

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Published on August 21, 2015

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