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  1. #1
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    HONY’s Stanton defends Ghulam Fatima: ‘I have complete faith in her integrity’ [Update #13]

    Though slavery was formally abolished in the United States in 1865, it is still very much alive in mayn places around the world.

    One such example is at the brick kilns in Pakistan. Estimates suggest that between 1-4 million people, many of them children, work day in and day out under slavery conditions to manufacture bricks. While the owners of the kilns are exceedingly wealthy, those who work for them in bonded labor can barely afford bread for their families.

    This abhorrent practice is currently being covered by Humans Of New York in a seven-part series featuring the work of Syeda Fatima, who risks her life every day to expose the bonded labor crisis in Pakistan.


    Full article here http://aplus.com/a/syeda-ghulam-fatima-pakistan-slavery

  2. #2
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    The most baffling thing is how can this go on in one of the biggest cities in Pakistan without the media or anyone picking up on it? I mean if it wasn't for humans of newyork, most of us probably would never hear about it.

  3. #3
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    Was just reading up on this. They've raised $750,000 in just 2 days on Indiegogo, and 75k in the past half an hour for Syeda Ghulam Fatima, all thanks to HONY. The lack of coverage for this, specially in national media is pretty bizarre.



    If anyone is interested, watch this^ from the 16:30 mark.


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  4. #4
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    Humans of new york are really raising the issue and critiquing the bonded labour network in Pakistan

    Of course some would rather lament the fact that you can still get halal food in lahore or that the adhaan does not let them sleep early in the morning
    and fair enough, let's not mock their pseudo liberal crusade, but this issue can be highlighted perhaps after the 6 o clock news presented by the daughter of a upper class islamabad coniosseur has a rivetting debate between some highly intellectual dawn news reporter and some illiterate molvi on why playing volleyball in bikinis is against the shariah


    "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles"

  5. #5
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    One of the most important issue that mainstream media won't talk about. Kiln owners contribute 3% to Pakistan's GDP and are a very powerful lobby influencing politicians and media houses.
    Politicians and law makers in most of countries are morally dead. They will not hesitate to throw these bonder labourer's to wolves .
    We need more people like Fathima and Brandon who can highlight the plight of these poor souls and also raise money for their freedom.

  6. #6
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    It is absolutely depressing how in this day and age this stuff can exist, and on such a huge scale.

    Shame on your politicians and your government, one of the few speaking against it being shot at and then deliberately ignored by the police just tops the cake. Absolutely disgusting honestly. Life has no value nowadays.

    I mean why the hell did it take Brandon for this to come to light? This is the stuff that should have nationwide protests until it ends, not some facebook posts


    See You Space Cowboy....

  7. #7
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    This is Brandon's best work yet.

    These kiln owners are so strong that at a local level it's hard to make a difference but now this has global attention. Thanks you HONY. Hopefully we can get rid of this menace in both India and Pakostan
    Last edited by Slog; 18th August 2015 at 15:19.

  8. #8
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    Sayeda Fatima - I have no words to describe how amazing this woman is. That takes unbelievable courage to stand up to these thugs. The way she freed that family will stay with me for a long time, that was very moving. Those workers may have lost their material possessions but they have something that we cannot put a price on - freedom. So happy to see they're now working away from that hell as they called it.

    What a curse this bonded labour is, its something straight from the 12th Century. Shame on these politicians and police who are hand in glove with the kiln owners.

  9. #9
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    HONY - Bonded Labor Liberation Front

    Please Donate: https://life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/1396224



    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.

    Meet Syeda Ghulam Fatima. Described as a modern day Harriet Tubman, Fatima has devoted her life to ending bonded labor. 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. So as we learn her story over the next few days, anyone wishing to help empower Fatima can donate to Bonded Labour Liberation Front here:

    http://bit.ly/1N9W3Ts



    “Bricks are the primary unit of construction across Pakistan. They are cheaper than concrete so almost everything is made with brick– especially in rural areas. There are 20,000 brick kilns across the country. We estimate that an average of 40 families work on each of these kilns and that each family is required to make 1000 bricks per day. That means 4.5 million people are living in slavery conditions. And so many of these workers are young children. Often they work all day and are denied education. They work in isolated areas, shielded from the eyes of society and hidden from the protection of the constitution. The laws don’t reach the kilns, so the workers live in constant fear of violence and retribution. The kiln owners are so rich and powerful. Their profits represent nearly 3% of Pakistan’s GDP. They put their friends and relatives in the legislature. They bribe and intimidate the police. It is very dangerous to speak out against them. I’ve been attacked and threatened so many times that I no longer fear death.”

    (2 of 7)
    (Lahore, Pakistan)



    “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. The assailants were never prosecuted. I had to sell my house to afford treatment at a private hospital. But the brick kiln workers came together to try to help me pay for my treatment. Despite their poverty, they gave 5 to 10 rupees at a time. And they lined up to donate their blood.”

    (3 of 7)
    (Lahore, Pakistan)



    “I was born into the brick kilns. I started working at the age of 12. The work never ended. We’re expected to make 1,000 bricks per day. We work from 5 AM to dusk. I tried to organize the workers recently to demand fair wages. We held meetings at night, but one of the workers informed on us. 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.”

    (4 of 7)
    (Lahore, Pakistan)



    “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. They only pay you 200 rupees per 1000 bricks, and it all goes to them, and the debt keeps growing. We are supposed to work from dawn to dusk for six days a week, but we never get the 7th day off. They tell me I owe them 900,000 rupees now. There is no hope for me. Every year they have a market. The brick kiln owners get together and they sell us to each other. Just ten days ago my entire family was sold for 2.2 million rupees.”


    *1,000 rupees = $10
    (5 of 7)
    (Lahore, Pakistan)



    “My sister’s kidneys were failing. We tried to raise the money to save her. We sold our cattle. We sold our property. We sold everything we had. When we ran out of options, I took a 5,000 rupee loan from the brick kiln. I thought I could pay it back by working for 15 or 20 days. But when I thought it was time to leave, the kiln owners did the accounts. They told me: ‘You lived in our house. You ate our food. You owe 11,000 now. If you have 11,000 rupees, you can go. Otherwise get back to work.’ They worked me harder. I never saw my wages. If I wanted to stop, they beat me. A few months later, my grandfather died. I asked for a few days off to arrange his funeral. ‘You owe 30,000 rupees now,’ they told me. ‘If you have 30,000 rupees, you can leave. Otherwise get back to work.’ Now I owe 350,000 rupees. And my sister died a long time ago. There’s no way out. Soon my debt will pass on to the next generation.”

    *1,000 rupees = $10
    (6 of 7)
    (Lahore, Pakistan)

    ------------------------------
    Please donate to this cause: https://life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/1396224

    Brandon is doing what our so called representatives should be doing and it is a shame that not a single Pakistani media outlet has highlighted his efforts. No one wants to upset the owners of these brick kilns.

    Thank you Brandon for your efforts, Pakistan salutes you!


    Whenever Nawaz wins, he divides PMLN equally. He keeps PM for himself and gives L N to the people.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donal Cozzie View Post
    It is absolutely depressing how in this day and age this stuff can exist, and on such a huge scale.

    Shame on your politicians and your government, one of the few speaking against it being shot at and then deliberately ignored by the police just tops the cake. Absolutely disgusting honestly. Life has no value nowadays.

    I mean why the hell did it take Brandon for this to come to light? This is the stuff that should have nationwide protests until it ends, not some facebook posts
    Forget just ignoring, according to one of the experiences shared, the police actually helped those criminals break into a man's house.

  11. #11
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    Poor Labour falls at feet of Imran Khan infront of Supreme Court begging for help




    # Punjab Speed

    # Shehbaz Teri Parwaaz Se Jalta Hai Zamana


    Mujhay hai Hukm e Azaa-n

  12. #12
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    Remember Pakistan’s ‘Harriet Tubman’ who got $2.3 million from Humans of New York? This is what she has done with it

    Corruption or mismanagement? 2 years on, Humans of New York’s massive $2.3 million donation fails to make an impact on Pakistan’s slave labor situation
    In August 2015, popular internet photojournalist Brandon Stanton highlighted the story of Syeda Ghulam Fatima, General Secretary of Lahore-based Bonded Labour Liberation Front Pakistan (BLLF), in a seven-part series about Pakistan on his Facebook page, Humans of New York (HONY).

    Humans of New York talked about Fatima’s efforts to eradicate bonded labor in Pakistan, and appealed to the international community for donations to her organization and her cause.

    As a result of the attention received through the Facebook page, over $2,300,000 USD was raised within a few days for the Bonded Labor Liberation Front.

    Fatima was hailed as “a modern-day Harriet Tubman” – after the abolitionist who successfully helped more than seventy slaves to freedom after the American Civil War – and received the Clinton Global Citizen Award. As her work gained more attention and acknowledgement worldwide, the donations came pouring in.

    Unfortunately, the donations – supposed to be used for liberating bonded slaves and the eradication of bonded labor – seem to have been swept under the rug, and no one seems to know how they are being used, or, indeed if they are being used.

    The official website and Facebook page of the organisation have not been updated, and there is no information on how the funds have been used, and how many developmental projects have been completed, if any. It seems as if the donations are not being used.

    The NGO claims that it raised USD 2.3 million (PKR 246,114,003) through HONY for a project called ‘Freedom Center’, which was meant to offer a safe haven for rescued workers. The NGO maintains that one of the first centers is being built on Raiwind Road, Lahore but, like many government projects plagued by corruption, this one seems to exist only in photographs and on paper.

    Daily Pakistan contacted Syeda Ghulam Fatima for comment. We sent her a formal email at her request to inquire about the ongoing projects and progress reports of the work that the organisation has done so far, apart from seminars and promotional banners.

    Initially, she denied that she received any email from us but we realized that she had indeed received the email when she began to repeat our own questions on the call, as she criticized us for our ‘inquisitiveness’. She added that she was not at ‘liberty’ to disclose the exact whereabouts of the building but stated that she could share some ‘pictorial information’ through email.

    The Plan
    The NGO claimed that they planned to construct a Freedom Centre on Raiwind Road, Lahore, using the funds raised through HONY. According to the blueprint (depicted above), the center was supposed to occupy an area of 25500 Sq ft, and would include facilities such as a healthcare unit, community hall, school and residential areas for rescued bonded laborers.

    To verify that the NGO was in the process of building such a grand facility two years after receiving this hefty donation or has already built it (the statements kept contradicting the previous ones), we asked the NGO if we could visit the facility for ourselves in order to verify their claims.

    At this point, they stopped responding to our queries, their only responses being excuses. They initially said that they wanted to keep the whereabouts of the facility secret in order not to compromise the identity of the rescued laborers. We did not receive a positive response even when we provided assurances that we would not disclose the location of the Freedom Centre.

    The Execution
    After persisting for two months, we decided to give them an ultimatum. We told them they had a choice: they could either show us the facility, or we would publish our story in its current state. Finally, the NGO relented.

    They finally agreed to take us to the location, which turned out to be 50 kilometres outside of Lahore. We were finally introduced to the 25500 square foot “grand” Freedom Center made with USD 2.3 million that took 2 years to construct:

    To our shock, the location that was hitherto being touted as a “well-built” and “safe” haven for recovered bonded labourers was little more than a desolate ground that we calculated to be a mere 8 kanals (barely one-tenth the size promised), with one incomplete disheveled building on 4 marla (1089 sq ft) consisting of three rooms with no utilities.

    The gloomy building conveyed a miserable picture. The walls have not yet been painted, while the stairs are still rugged, making it impossible for any living being to inhabit it in its present state, let alone laborers who have been liberated from bondage.

    Not only was this tiny building incomplete, there was no sign of any ongoing construction. In fact, it seemed as if construction of this facility had been halted a long time ago.

    There are at least four brick kilns around this place which are visible from the first floor. The logic for building a center surrounded by brick kilns, we were told, was to “facilitate and rescue” the workers employed in these kilns. The project manager, however, stated that the building was still incomplete and uninhabited due to “lack of resources” and the unavailability of electricity.

    This was a direct contradiction to earlier claims that the whereabouts of this place was being kept confidential in order to protect the rescued laborers from influential brick kiln owners who “wanted to take revenge.” Which inhabited workers were they talking about when there were clearly none?

    We asked the project manager as well as Syeda Ghulam Fatima about this, and were told that the donations they received had only been sufficient for constructing what she now called ‘Freedom Resource Centre’. She said that she did not expect the funds to be sufficient for the ‘sustainability’ of this center. “We definitely need more donations and funds,” she added.

    When we asked her why there had been no tangible progress even after the passage of two years, Fatima replied that it was not easy for her to put together a mega-project that includes a hospital, rehabilitation center, schools, community center and even a paralegal staff.

    The project manager believed that donations were not enough even for the construction of the building, stating that “even building a 5 marla house requires a lot of money.”

    For comparison purposes, with $2.3 million (PKR 24 crore) in Lahore, one can easily buy a fully-furnished, 10,000 sq ft house in Lahore’s most expensive DHA area, with enough left over for maintenance and sustainability of the facility for at least five years.

    Fatima, who had earlier emphasized that the ‘safe house’ and ‘freedom center’ were two completely different projects and that she “owned” both, now stated that this was the only project being built by HONY money and that she was facing serious obstacles in building it. She didn’t offer any clarification about why she claimed to own a freedom center occupied by recovered bonded laborers.

    It is pertinent to add here that two months ago, we had visited BLLF’s office in Lahore where we were introduced to “recovered laborers”. The NGO had told us that these laborers had come from the Freedom Center that had been constructed using HONY donations, and that they had arrived especially to share their ordeal with us. The reason for letting us to meet those bonded laborers at the office was to keep us away from visiting the ‘freedom center’.

    The present state of the “Freedom Centre” puts a huge question mark over those meetings, as the facility the NGO claimed those laborers came from, does not seem to exist.

    We are not sure if this has been caused by mismanagement on part of BLLF or due to corruption on part of the NGO management. What are sure of, however, is how unfortunate it is that such a huge donation gathered from all over the world to help bonded slave labourers has been wasted in such a manner.

    Brandon Stanton, as well as all the donors who donated this money, had placed their absolute trust in this NGO as well as “Pakistan’s Harriet Tubman”, Syeda Ghulam Fatima. It would be a tragedy if it turns out that they have betrayed this trust.

    In Pakistan, NGOs receive hefty donations with little or no oversight, with the result that very few projects exist beyond documents and photographs. Neither the government nor the press follows up on these grand projects, and foreign donors are shown lengthy but misleading reports or fabricated photos, in attempts to satisfy them. When some donors insist, they are fobbed off with excuses of “security situation”, and those who swindle these foreign donors are easily let off the hook.

    It is shameful that, despite the best of intentions, a great campaign and a huge fundraiser, HONY has been unable to put a dent in the slavery situation in Pakistan. If mismanagement and corruption continue unabated, even $2.3 billion will not be enough to alleviate Pakistan’s slavery situation.
    https://en.dailypakistan.com.pk/****...-done-with-it/

  13. #13
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    HONY’s Stanton defends Ghulam Fatima: ‘I have complete faith in her integrity’

    The photographer behind the celebrated Humans of New York Facebook page has spoken out after alarming accusations were leveled against Syeda Ghulam Fatima, the subject of one of his viral photos, and vouched for her “integrity and prudence”.

    In an email to Dawn.com, New York-based Brandon Stanton on Monday responded to questions about his association with Fatima, saying, “I stand behind Fatima's work and have complete faith in her integrity.”

    The photographer has spoken in support of Ghulam Fatima days after her organisation, the Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF), was accused of “corruption and mismanagement by a Pakistani online publication which alleges that Fatima has “done nothing substantial” with the $2.3 million donated to her organisation through a crowdfunding campaign initiated by Stanton.

    The allegations have shocked many Pakistanis who had celebrated Stanton’s visit and his subsequent fundraising campaign for Fatima’s NGO. The debate over whether this was a case of fraud and embezzlement went viral across social media.

    Stanton says the funds were transferred to Fatima in phases: “The money was transferred in three different installments, beginning less than 1.5 years ago. The first installment was not received by Fatima until November 2015. I have been in constant contact with Fatima, and we have met in person twice since she received the money.”

    The article published on March 17 says Fatima has “failed to provide audits and contracts” two years after Stanton’s campaign.

    The report also includes photographs of what appears to be an under-construction building, which it says is the Freedom Center BLLF pledged to construct. It likens Fatima's project to "many government projects plagued by corruption", adding that it exists only on paper.

    Stanton however clarifies that there was “never a timeframe for completion” of the project.

    “The money was intended to support her work for an extended period of time. It is my understanding that very little has been spent so far — which I believe to be a sign of Fatima's prudence," Stanton says.

    "The money was never intended for a single construction project and there was certainly never a timeframe for completion.”

    Fatima shot to fame in 2015 when Stanton photographed her during his visit to Pakistan as part of his journey to photograph ordinary people and tell their stories on his blog.

    In his Facebook post with her photograph, Stanton described Fatima as a “very special change agent who is working to eradicate one of the nation’s most pressing social ills”.

    Inspired by her work at the BLLF — an NGO that describes itself as the pioneer of organisations working to end bonded labour in Pakistan — Stanton invited the over 15 million followers on his page to donate to her cause.

    “She has been shot, electrocuted, and beaten numerous times for her activism…. So as we learn her story over the next few days, anyone wishing to help empower Fatima can donate to Bonded Labour Liberation Front…," Stanton wrote in 2015.

    Fatima shares bank statements

    In an attempt to refute allegations leveled in the report, Fatima shared bank statements and land registry documents. The documents, as obtained by Dawn.com, contain:

    • A bank statement of her account held in Meezan Bank since December 10, 2015 with a closing balance of Rs208 million (over $1.9million) on March 20, 2017
    • A bank statement of a BLLF account held in Meezan Bank with a closing balance of Rs5.2 million (around $52,000) on March 20, 2017
    • Land acquisition papers dated April 24, 2014 for her private property which is now being built as the Freedom Center


    Fatima tells Dawn.com that the entire sum of donations was transferred to her a year ago and that the search for land and resistance from powerful brick-kiln owners have caused delays.

    "I wanted to build something that will live on after me," Fatima says, adding that the site where the center is being built has no access to water and electricity after a nearby transformer was destroyed by people associated with kilns were she has freed labourers.

    "The photographs that have emerged show just one block. It is not the complete project."

    In a message to Dawn.com, Hamza Rao, the reporter who worked on the first story says: "First of all, these are not allegations. I have not alleged anyone of corruption or embezzlement. I have simply raised questions about why there is no concrete advancement or development in the project for freedom centers."

    "And I am not responsible for how people are perceiving the article." He adds that he has since written a rebuttal to "clarify" his earlier report.

    Charity funds in a personal account?

    Through a generosity.com campaign, over 76,000 people donated $2.3 million to Stanton for Fatima’s organisation, wildly surpassing the $100,000 goal Stanton had originally envisioned.

    Questions are now being raised as to why a large sum of money is under Fatima’s personal account and not in the BLLF account.

    In a conversation with Dawn.com, Fatima confirmed that the account with over $1.9 million is a personal account which she created after members of her organisation "expressed their trust” in her to keep the money safe.

    According to her, the decision not to put the funds in the BLLF account was taken when the government decided to register a separate entity, Bonded Labour Liberation Front Union (BLLFU), as a platform for both kiln owners and labourers.

    She said she feared an "overlap or confusion between the two entities", adding that the transfer of funds into her personal account was meant to avoid what she feared was government intervention.

    The Meezan Bank account under Fatima’s name is not a charity account and is therefore not exempt from the relevant taxes.

    BLLF is a non-profit organisation registered in 1990 under the Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies Registration and Control Ordinance 1961.

    According to a paper prepared by the Social Policy and Development Centre, the ordinance regulates grass-roots level organisations providing welfare services to those in need. It also requires that all organisations engaged in social welfare or charitable works must be registered with the Social Welfare Departments of the provincial governments.

    Lahore-based lawyer Asad Jamal says the issue of funds in Fatima's personal account is one of ethics, but adds that she is not legally bound to transfer the funds in a charity account.

    "There is more of a moral issue than a legal issue," says Jamal. "The question can be raised as to why she gave her personal bank details."

    "There is no legal obligation for her to not keep the money in her personal account. If she doesn’t have sufficient legal advice then she may not even think about the moral conflict."

    Jamal says the wording of the appeal is also important. "Did people perceive that the money they are giving will go to her account or charity account? Maybe the people donated on goodwill for Fatima and left it upon her to decide how best to spend it."

    The generosity.com campaign page says the drive was created for BLLF, but the call to action reads, "Let's Help Fatima End Bonded Labour."

    "People donated her based on her previous work. Her goodwill earned her the money," Jamal says.

    https://www.dawn.com/news/1321912/


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