HONY raises $1.3 million to help end bonded labour in Pakistan

Published: August 18, 2015


Brandon Stanton, during his short visit, has captured breathtaking images of our countrymen, publishing their stories and managing to show the world another side of Pakistan.

The creator of Humans of New York (HONY) has, however, outdone himself this time, helping raise around $1.3 million through a remarkable seven-photo series depicting the struggle of a Pakistani female activist fighting against bonded labour.

Stanton set up an account for Syeda Ghulam Fatima, titled ‘Let’s help Fatima end bonded labour’, raising $1,302,440 for the Bonded Labor Liberation Front in just three days.

In the first post of the series, Stanton wrote, “Meet Syeda Ghulam Fatima. Described as a modern day Harriet Tubman, Fatima has devoted her life to ending bonded labor.”

Describing her ordeal, he further narrated, “She has been shot, electrocuted, and beaten numerous times for her activism. Quite literally, she places herself between the workers and their owners. The organization she leads, the Bonded Labour Liberation Front, is small but determined. It is working to set up Freedom Centers throughout rural Pakistan so that every bonded laborer has access to advocacy and legal aid. Fatima operates on a very small budget.”

Read: HONY’s portrait of abuse victim from Lahore prompts heartwarming response



Stanton further revealed that he was introduced to Fatima’s work by a journalist named Fazeelat Aslam, who had done a piece on Fatima for Vice News.



Explaining how bonded labour works, Stanton wrote in the same post, “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.”

Stanton pointed out that the practice is illegal in Pakistan “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.”

In the third photo in the series, Fatima decribed how brick kiln owners tried to stop her from raising her voice. “I was walking to court to attend a hearing against a kiln owner when suddenly I was surrounded by a group of men. Everyone ran away except for my brother and me. The men told me that I better drop the case. I told them I would not. Then they knocked me to the ground, pulled back my leg, and shot me in the knee. Afterwards they did the same to my brother. We thought we were dead. I was taken to the public hospital but was turned away. Politicians from the local ruling party had forbidden the doctors from treating me.”

Stanton also told the story of a boy who was born into the brick kilns and directly turned to Fatima to help him escape the violence and cruelty of the owners. He told a horrifying tale of how he and his family suffered at the hands of the powerful kiln owners.

Read: HONY in Pakistan: He came, he saw, he left

“The owners called me to the office and beat me. They made the other workers join in. Then they took off all my clothes and tied me to a tree. I begged them not to do it. They left me there for hours. I tried to escape at night. I padlocked my family in the house and I ran into the fields. I came straight to Fatima. Before we could return for my family, the police had helped the owners break into my house. And my daughters were paraded naked in the streets,” he related.

Stanton also photographed a young man who recounted how he had been trapped by kiln owners. “My sister fell ill and her medical bills cost 30,000 rupees. My father wasn’t getting his salary on time, so we had no options. I took a loan from the brick kiln and agreed to work for them until it was paid off. Other members of my family did the same. We thought it would only take three months. But when I went to leave, they told me I owed them 90,000 rupees. I couldn’t believe it. They told me I couldn’t leave. It’s like quicksand.”

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Reader Comments (14)

  • FP
    Aug 18, 2015 - 2:51PM

    Thanks HONY on behalf of all Pakistanis. You did what our politician and media supposed to do. Hats off Brandon.Recommend

  • Parvez
    Aug 18, 2015 - 2:53PM

    Amazing ……..shows the power of technology when put to good use.
    Brandon Stanton …….take a bow.Recommend

  • Maq
    Aug 18, 2015 - 3:17PM

    Thanks, BrandonRecommend

  • Aug 18, 2015 - 3:36PM

    To all the Americans who supported and funded this program …. Salute and respect from a Pakistani … Special Thanks to Humans of NewYork.

    May you have the best of what the world has to offer. Recommend

  • mughees
    Aug 18, 2015 - 4:07PM

    Thanks Brandon, You did something which non of us were able to do for our countryRecommend

  • Chaigram
    Aug 18, 2015 - 4:09PM

    Brandon, by taking up the issue of Bonded labor in Pakistan you have shamed the entire political establishment particularly the Sharif brothers…..how a young photographer from New York can make such a difference, bravo my friend.Recommend

  • Aug 18, 2015 - 4:18PM

    From the bottom of my heart ! Thanks to HONY on behalf of all Pakistanis. You did a great job mate ! You did what state has to do for there peoples ! My wishes are always with you ! and i would request the close eye officials & media to please read and take some action against such type of violence ! Especially to all Americans who supported these funds ! Humanity , peace & love has no religion ! Salute and respect from a Pakistani Recommend

  • ironMan!
    Aug 18, 2015 - 4:31PM

    God help you in mysterious ways…in no way they would have thought someone from the US would come to share their stories or help them financially..this is quite a miracle for them. Hope money reaches them safely and it change their lives for better. Blessings to HONY. 3 cheers for Mr. Brandon.Recommend

    Aug 18, 2015 - 5:54PM


  • Azmat Ali
    Aug 18, 2015 - 6:07PM

    A matter of absolute shame for the entire nation of Pakistan, especially at locations where such brick kilns exist. Dwelling in the cities, one might be granted some leeway on this issue, but those who live around and amongst these workers, how can they be pardoned for not taking up this issue legally or not taking up arms against such sub-human behavior.
    What will it take for our government to open their eyes and bring this practice crushing down? Maybe Ms. Syeda Ghulam Fatima can now use the funds she has received to both boldly advertise and legally fight the practice. $1.3 million can go a long way in highlighting this matter to the utmost.
    Bravo HONY. Bravo Brandon, But the biggest cheers are for the lady who has fought this alone, at the cost of stable life. May Allah grant you the success you so richly deserve. Ameen.Recommend

  • Barrister Asad Sheikh
    Aug 18, 2015 - 10:18PM

    Thank you Brandon for standing up for these people while our so called representatives fight over a so called constitution that isn’t worth more than a toilet paper.

    Our representatives will not speak for these people because the owners actually fund their political campaign.Recommend

  • Sana Cutlery
    Aug 19, 2015 - 7:12AM

    Thank You Brandon for the excellent job you did for fellow Pakistanis. God Bless America and great people like you working for the cause of poor people.Recommend

  • Mohammad
    Aug 19, 2015 - 2:43PM

    it has crossed over two million.. Recommend

  • Ali S
    Aug 19, 2015 - 9:59PM

    Brilliant effort by HONY and Syeda Ghulam Fatima, but I really wish that the amount of money raised wasn’t publicly posted. It can put Fatima and her organization in a vulnerable position as our corrupt police, politicians and the powerful people she’s rallying against want a slice of her hard-earned donations.Recommend

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