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Village of the Freed

A young girl stands by a fire in Azadnagar village. Following the release of the Global Slavery Index by the Walk Free Foundation Pakistan is ranked 3rd worst in the world behind India and China. The Asian Development Bank estimates some 1.8 million people are slaves in Pakistan yet other estimates reach up to 4 million people, most of which toil year after year in brick kilns or sugar cane plantations. Their stories are the same; they have no-where to turn so they borrow money from a land-owner for a medical emergency or marriage dowry. The landlords pay in return for work, their labour supposed to be taken off the amount borrowed. Yet after years of no salary incredibly their amount owed is often quadrupled, the excuse being the amount they cost to feed! Many are chained, abused, raped and even killed.

For years they had no where to run, no one to help but now a small local NGO called the Green Development Rural Organisation (GDRO) works to free bonded-slaves by using the law against their captives. Yet, often freed slaves end up right back where they were or risk being hunted by the landowner and forced to return. So GRDO started building villages so slaves who escape or are freed have somewhere safe to go. It now has two, whose names translate from Urdu as ‘Village of the Freed’ and ‘Village of the Courageous’, and is working on a 3rd. The land is bought and allocated to freed slave families where they can build a house and start again. Without such help the vicious cycle would continue.

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