According to the 2016 Global Slavery Index, over 2 millions people in Pakistan live in slavery. One of the most prevalent forms of slavery here is bonded labor, in which an initial debt assumed by a worker as part of the terms of employment is exploited, ultimately entrapping other family members, sometimes for generations. Bonded labor is concentrated in Sindh and Punjab provinces, but also occurs in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, in agriculture and brick-making and, to a lesser extent, in fisheries, mining, and handicraft- and carpet-making. Some feudal landlords and brick kiln owners affiliated with political parties use their influence to protect their involvement in bonded labor. Veero’s family took salary advances as migrant farm workers, after which the landowner trapped them by claiming the debt was never repaid. Veero was able to escape her enslavement on foot, a difficult and dangerous journey. Today she works on farms as a freewoman, and helps with the release of other slaves. So far she has helped at least 700 others out of slavery.
The slaveholder hired men armed with guns and axes. And they guarded us the entire day. They would fire their guns into the air at night to terrorise us, so that we wouldn’t try to escape.
The slaveholder kept an eye on my daughters. He wanted to use them for sex.
People are helpless because they have no skills or education. There’s nobody there to guide them to fight against the slaveholders.
All people are equal, and I want to help others, so that they don’t suffer what I have suffered. The slaveholders have sent messages that I will be murdered, but I don’t fear them anymore, and I will continue to fight. That is the spirit I have inside me.
As told to Free the Slaves