A stony path to freedom in Pakistan: Insan Dost Association

Peace Award Winner 2013, Categorie "Exemplary Organisation"

Slave work is forbidden in Pakistan, and yet still commonplace. Insan Dost Association campaigns for its abolition. It has founded trade unions and schools, represents female workers in court, helping them to increase their self-confidence in the fight against slavery.

For millions of people living in Pakistan a life of slavery is bitter reality. They work in the carpet weaving industry and in agriculture, in the fishing industry and in refuse disposal, in quarries and in the production of bricks.

More than a million children have to work extremely hard in Pakistan´s brick kilns, according to the estimations of the Insan Dost Association (IDA). In Punjab, a region in the east of the country, the human rights organization campaigns for the abolition of bonded labour. Penniless workers have to borrow money on which to live from the brick kiln owners and then have to pay off their debts through hard physical labour, without contracts, health cover and regular working hours. Entire families are caught up in this fatal system. In order to enable the children to break through this vicious circle caused by a lack of education and slave work, IDA has built several education centres and provides education for thousands of young people in public and private schools.

Commitment to the weakest

The Insan Dost Association has been commited to helping the victims of physical, psychological and sexual abuse since 1986, especially the workers of the brick kilns. IDA encourages them to found trade unions as a possible way of liberating themselves from the shackles of slavery. As a result, 185 associations have developed over the course of the years. Several committed workers fight with increased confidence together with IDA to improve working conditions and for a state regulated minimum wage, irrespective of the violent attacks from brick kiln owners.

Liberation through law

Many of those affected only realized through IDA that slave work has been forbidden since 1992 and that every individual can liberate himself from bonded labour. The organization used posters to draw attention to legal options and spoke about the rights of bonded workers at demonstrations and events. With help from IDA, thousands of workers were able to apply for a passport and register to vote.

So far, IDA's employees have managed to liberate 15,000 people from slavery through a court order – one first great step towards a life of human dignity.



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