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Millions are trapped in 'modern-day slavery' at brick kilns in Pakistan. Here's how you can help.

Child sitting amongst clay bricks on brick kilns
Bilawal Bhatti and Maqbool Ahmed
  • Nearly 25 million people are trapped in modern-day slavery across Asian and the Pacific regions.

  • Families in Pakistan can be forced into bonded labor, working in grueling conditions at brick kilns.

  • Here are organizations that provide resources for these families.

Vasanti Megwhar and her family spend their days making bricks under the sun of the Thar Desert in southeast Pakistan, where temperatures can climb as high as 122 degrees.

The Megwhars are one of millions of families across South Asia who work in punishing conditions at brick kilns to pay off an unknown amount of debt to wealthy landowners. Lawyers told Insider that these kilns are part of a system of "modern-day slavery."

Insider recently went to the brick kiln in the Thar Desert to document the conditions families such as the Megwhars are forced to work under.

 

 

Although Pakistan abolished forced labor in 1992, the law is not well enforced and experts told Insider that kiln owners often have government ties which make it easier to escape enforcement.

Now, organizations such as Green Bricks Foundations are working to raise money and provide other resources such as access to schools to support families stuck in forced labor.

Here's a list of groups you can donate to:

Green Bricks Foundation

Green Bricks Foundation is spearheaded by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), a Pakistan-based non-governmental organization founded in 1992. According to the organization, SPARC has helped free over 17,000 workers by taking their cases to court, Zahid Thebo, a SPARC program manager, told Insider.

Green Bricks Foundation created a new donation page after seeing the interest from viewers who wanted to help the family featured in Insider's documentary. Thebo said that donations from this page will go toward first paying off the Meghwar's loans and moving them into a safe shelter. The NGO will use additional funds to build a school in Azad Nagar, the city where they house freed families.

So far, Thebo said the NGO has raised about $700 and is working on rescuing the Meghwar's. But he emphasized that his work doesn't stop here and there are still thousands of families in Pakistan's Sindh province alone who need help.

Bonded Labour Liberation Front Pakistan

The Bonded Labour Liberation Front Pakistan (BLLF) plainly states that its mission is "total eradication of "bonded labor and child labor from South Asia." The group's work consists of educating people on how to exercise their rights and advocating for a government response to bonded labor issues, according to its website.

"We cannot rely on judicial activism alone," Syeda Ghulam Fatima, BLLF's secretary told The News on Sunday. "We need strong laws passed by the parliament to completely eradicate the practice of bonded labor. Many of the laws are weak or not enforced in their true spirit."

In 2015, a photo campaign by Humans of New York chronicling the lives of those trapped in bonded labor resulted in an outpouring of support for Fatima's work. The group raised over $2 million to help end the illegal practice.

Anti-Slavery International

Anti-Slavery International (ASI) is a UK-based NGO that partners with organizations, businesses, and governments to end slavery around the world. Founded in 1839, Anti-Slavery International is one of the oldest international human rights organizations, according to its website.

In its 2022 impact report, ASI said that it helped end state-imposed forced labor in Uzbekistan after a 15-year pressure campaign on the government and raised about $4.3 million, among other achievements.

Global Fund to End Modern Slavery

The Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS) is an international fund with over 40 projects implemented across India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and a host of other countries, leading a coordinated global effort to address trafficking and forced labor. In 2018, the US government provided GFEMS with a $21 million dollar grant to help the group expand its efforts.

In 2021, the fund aided 1,300 survivors by providing basic needs, education, or other support services.

Freedom Fund

The Freedom Fund is another global fund working to end modern slavery in countries where the issue is prevalent or, as the nonprofit calls it, "hotspots." Areas include Brazil, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, India, and Thailand, among other countries. Part of its efforts includes providing resources for grassroots organizations working on the frontlines of the issue.

According to the organization, Freedom Fund supported nearly 1.5 million people across hotspot areas in 2021 and 2022. About $70.6 million were invested into the Freedom Fund's hotspot programs.

Read the original article on Insider