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.
Fatima has been called Pakistan's "modern-day Harriet Tubman" for her efforts.
How do so many people come to live in these conditions?
According to a feature on Fatim by VICE, workers typically come to the wealthy kiln owners in search of small personal loans, worth about a couple hundred American dollars. They are told they can work in the kilns making bricks in order to pay off their debt.
To meet the demands of hand crafting 1,000 bricks each day, workers are forced to include their children, as young as three years old, in the process.
The workers, who are largely illiterate, don't understand the contracts between them and the kiln owners. Not that the contracts matter, as the amount of money owed and time left in servitude are increased arbitrarily with the workers powerless to object. What might have started out as a season of work could turn into years, or even a lifetime.
And it only gets even worse from there.
The wealthy kiln owners are known for bribing local law enforcement and members of the legislature.
This means that there is no legal recourse for the workers. If they try to escape, they risk being shot or tortured. Wives and daughters of those who attempt escape are regularly raped and beaten in front of them.
Fatima will continue to rise above the fear and work to free the millions of slaves in Pakistan's brick kilns.
Fatima is sometimes able to organize extractions of families from these work camps, but it is done under extremely perilous conditions. If they are able to get assistance from the police, law enforcement is not told which kiln they're going to, under the fear that they would inform the kiln owner who would hide the family in question or fire the rescuers.
HONY has started a fundraiser to assist Fatima in her life's work of ending bonded labor in Pakistan. The initial goal was set at $100,000, but has raised over $300,000 in just two days. Donations will go toward expanding Fatima's incredible operations, liberating more people from these deplorable working conditions, and hopefully ending this deplorable practice once and for all.
Follow the entire series on Humans Of New York.
If you can't personally donate, share Fatima's story and help raise awareness about the millions living in slave conditions in Pakistan. Their lives depend on people knowing they exist and speaking out on their behalf.
[All images via: Humans Of New York]