HONY Facebook Page Raises $2 Million For Humans Of Pakistan Living In Bondage

In just five days, a popular photographer raised two million dollars to help fight an illegal practice that borders on slavery.

Credit: Humans of New York

Credit: Humans of New York


“Humans of New York” (HONY), the popular Facebook page created by photographer Brandon Stanton, has garnered fans and support from all over the globe. Most importantly, it has humanized the human population in a way mainstream media never does, and humbly shares snippets of peoples’ lives others might relate to. In a way, it is an incredible social experiment proving time and time again the inherent goodness of the human race.

Recently, Stanton traveled to Pakistan and continued snapping portraits while capturing stories from individuals he met along the way. Through Brandon’s efforts, followers of HONY had the opportunity to learn about the illegal practice that borders on slavery, known as ‘bonded labor.’

In Pakistan, bonded labor is an endless cycle of debt. Owners of brick kilns offer small loans to desperate people who promise to work off the debt – often thinking it will only take a few days.

Later, however, the kiln owners charge the debtor with hidden costs and he learns his debt has actually increased. The longer he works, the more he owes.

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Brandon learned about the problem when he met Syeda Ghulam Fatima – who he calls the “Harriet Tubman of Pakistan.” Fatima founded the Bonded Labour Liberation Front to educate workers on their rights and to make the government enforce the laws against the practice.

She has met huge resistance, however, and over the years has been electrocuted, shot, and repeatedly beaten for her activism. Despite her outsized impact, however, she remains intent on abolishing this last “legal” form of slavery.

To assist Fatima and help end bonded labor, Brandon set up a fundraising effort on IndieGoGo with the goal of raising $100,000 to fight the practice. Amazingly, in less than a week, it topped $2.2 million.

To say Fatima and all the kiln workers are beyond grateful is an understatement. After news was shared of the generosity gifted, she issued the following statement:

“From BLLF and from all of the bonded labourers, thank you. Thank you to everyone who has opened their hearts and donated to our cause. I struggle to find the words, I don’t think I have the words to tell you how grateful we are. You have donated for freedom, for rehabilitation and we are indebted. Thank you so much. The prayers of every labourer are with you and they will always hold you in their hearts. Our responsibility now is to honour what you have trusted us with, and we will. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we want to build a real freedom center in Lahore, here we can work on not just releasing families but rehabilitation. We want workers to be treated with the rights they deserve as citizens.

Pakistan faces a lot of challenges, and we want industry to thrive in Pakistan, but the labourers must be free. You cannot make people work by beating and chaining them. I believe that the day the owners understand me, that the day the worker is happy, the profits will be greater. Labour rights need to be regulated, owners have the right to make profit but not through abuse, and deprivation. That is not an industry, that is slavery.

This is a big step for labourers that this has received so much attention, and that their voices have reached a global stage and we are being heard. With this we hope to end bonded labour in Pakistan.”

Credit: Humans of New York

Credit: Humans of New York

This isn’t the first time the philanthropic photographer has brought people together through his photos and fundraising efforts. Last year, after a photo of a young boy sharing that his teacher was his hero went viral, over a hundred thousand dollars was raised to fund field trips for the entire class to Harvard. This no doubt changed the course of many of their lives, and also deeply affected those who felt connected by being able to contribute.

Learn more by visiting the “Humans of New York” website and Facebook page.

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