May 19, 2022 was a great day for current and former residents of Miriam's House. The International Organization for Migrants (https://www.iom.int/) held its first ever orientation session to identify and register vulnerable women and girls for skills training that will lead to the implementation of their own businesses. We took 18 women and girls on behalf of Miriam's House and five of them were selected for the program! This means a radical life change for the women and their families, they will be funded and supported in pursuing a dream! What an opportunity.
The women who participated in the meeting today were all impacted in a positive way, having had no exposure to this kind of training or surroundings (it was hosted in a hotel), giving them all a glimpse into what they are doing the hard work to accomplish. Even the women who were not selected came away with a sense of inspiration and hope.
You can join us in ending slavery through empowering programs and other women like them!
Many of you might remember Mehak because you donated towards a painting we had done of her last year. Mehak was kidnapped and forced to marry a much older man, and when we finally found her was pregnant with his child and enduring constant abuse. We were able to legally get her removed from the home and she has since given birth to the baby and is flourishing with her mother and sisters! Here she is today (in the white head covering) with Ben.
Your support is often a matter of life or death and we are so grateful.
You can help support more amazing women like Mehak by clicking here:
Children and girls in the brick kilns face extreme mental and physical trauma, the conditions they are subject to are volatile and inhumane. Extreme stress on the physical body, lack of clean water, malnutrition, and smog from burning coal create extremely high rates of those who are born physically and mentally challenged. In this environment, which promotes survival of the fittest, a young family of girls has very little hope of creating a life outside of the brick kilns. Their status in society is low, and it is likely that they will marry others in the brick kilns and be required to live and work there for the rest of their lives.
When we learned of Chanda and her family, we knew we had to step in and help get them out of the brickyard. Chandra’s father passed away last year and left her, her mother, brother, sisters and cousin with the debt he had incurred. Supreme Court laws in this region require that children be released from their fathers debt once he passes away but lower courts and police will ensure that they remain enslaved to the brickyards until the debt is paid in full.
With the help of our partners on the ground, this was not to be Chanda and her sister's destiny! We have moved them into Miriam’s House - a safe home where they are experiencing community care and learning the skills they need to thrive as free people. During their time in our restoration homes we will carefully create a constructive community that reinforces their value and identity.
This is where your support can make a difference. Chanda and her family’s debt was equal to about $1,650 usd and while All People Free has made arrangements to pay it in full to release them from the brickyards, we have yet to raise the actual money.
Would you be willing to step in and help?
We wish we could say that hers is the only family in this situation, but that’s just not reality. Until we end the entire system, there will be more families living like this. Right now we have 8 other families in similar situations that are ready to start their new life.
"A woman with a voice is, by definition, a strong woman."
- Melinda Gates
When women are given equal access to education, economics and resources, it benefits the entire community by tackling the root causes of poverty. Do you know that statistically, educated women who have economic agency tend to invest 90% of their income into their families?
That’s why we have started 7 trade schools for girls. We educate women who would otherwise be slaving away in the brickyards--or worse, trafficked into the sex trade--and train them in practical skills such as sewing and business management. The long term impact of this is education, economic growth, and a more empathetic society.
“I truly believe the only way we can create global peace is through not only educating our minds, but our hearts and our souls.” - Malala Yousafzai
I (Romay) was given the honor of addressing the women we serve - some of them teachers in our primary schools, some students of our trade schools, most brickyard workers, all of them human. All of them made in the image of God and all of them deserving of value, empathy and love.
We are so amazed at how many women joined us for this incredible day! To look into the beautiful faces of such strong, resilient women and tell them that they have what it takes to make lasting change for their children was something so special.
We believe that empowering women with skills and agency is a giant leap towards creating a better future for the whole community - the whole world.
“Education also strengthens economies. When female citizens are better educated, they have a greater chance of becoming gainfully employed, which then raises the income of the entire household. For proof, look no further than a 2003 study by UNESCO, which showed that for every year that a country's average years of schooling increases, its long-term economic growth increases by 3.7%.” Read more
The Importance of Women's Empowerment
“Improved literacy can have a remarkable effect on women’s earnings. As stipulated in the 2013/4 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, in Pakistan, working women with high levels of literacy skills earned 95% more than women with weak or no literacy skills, whereas the differential was only 33% among men. Educated women are empowered to take a greater economic role in their families and communities, and they tend to reinvest 90% of what they earn into their families.”
“We define women’s economic empowerment as the transformative process by which women and girls go from having limited power, voice, and choice at home and in the economy to having the skills, resources, and opportunities needed to access and compete equitably in markets and the agency to control and benefit from economic gains.”
At the beginning of 2014, I told my parents that I no longer wanted to work making bricks, that since I was their only daughter, they must think about my future. They agreed. Then, in June of that year, my mother noticed breast pain and on the way to the hospital she and my father had an accident on their motorcycle. My father was injured so badly he was not able to work and the test my mother received showed that she had a tumor and needed surgery. For a while, we didn’t take her condition seriously, though she was on medication. And my father could not work the same as he did before. We wanted to be free so we worked so hard.
My mother’s condition worsened, she was in so much pain and getting worse by the day. The doctors said she had breast cancer and needed surgery but working as slaves, we could not afford the treatment. In 2017 my father borrowed money from the brickyard owner for my mother's surgery, and we prayed every day for her healing. Her surgery was a success! Eventually my mother was able to start work again and my father could help bring us clay.
In May 2020, Brother Suleman with All People Free came to visit us and we told him about our circumstances. He made a way for us to leave the brickyard and live in Anna’s house. Now I have started studying again at Anna’s House and I’m learning to sew. Soon we will begin learning to sew Bible covers, ladies purses, and clutches. We feel that God has seen our pain and heard our prayers for freedom.
Giving the Gift of Liberation from Bonded Labor
In our work, we encounter many young women like Salmoni, who are facing the worst of the hardships that bonded laborers are subjected to. Many of them are under threat of being trafficked, sold for organ harvesting, being beaten, and being starved. The physical and emotional toll is overwhelming. This is why we have launched Anna’s House, a safe home of restoration for these women and their families.
Anna’s House Provides Relief from Bonded Labor
Our first home is called "Anna's House." Anna means “Grace” - empowerment to change; to move forward. Our goal is to help women at risk find grace and empowerment through emotional and physical support, as well as trade skill training to help them move into the future with everything they need to thrive.
The goal of Anna's House is restoration for the whole family unit. During their stay at Anna’s House, we provide families with shelter, food, clothing, and training so they can become self-supporting. After their stay with us, we help relocate them to their own homes and establish them in a job. We continue to support these families with regular check-ins from our staff after they leave Anna’s House.
How to Give the Gift of Liberation:
March 8th is International Women's Day and in Pakistan thousands of women will take to the streets to protest, many of whom have histories of being enslaved in brickyards. Pakistani women are fighting for the right to determine what happens to their bodies. According to Amnesty International (linked below), that includes "sexual and reproductive rights, and freedom from physical abuse, domestic violence and rape, or being subjected to any medical procedure without informed consent."
Women everywhere deserve to be free, and we stand with them as they fight for the freedom they deserve.
Learn more about Pakistan and this year's Women's March (known in Pakistan as "Aurat March") here: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/03/pakistan-amnesty-international-stands-with-aurat-march/
Learn more about International Women's Day here: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/
Meet Safia and her sons, Asif and Qasim. Both of Safia’s sons lost their eyesight due to a disease and her late husband, Nazeer Masih, took out a loan to pay for their treatment. He used to work in the brickyards to feed his family and pay back the loan, but when he passed, the burden of supporting their family fell to Safia. Needing a way to pay back their debt and feed her family, she went to work in the brickyard.
Safia, her two sons, and her young daughter now live in the brickyard where they endure the harshness of the weather in a mud house and struggle to escape from the crippling debt that keeps them enslaved. Her daughter was unable to continue her education, and her sons’ blindness prevents them from most jobs.
With their debts recently paid off by generous people in their local community, All People Free is working to raise $1000 to relocate them and set them up with employment that will give them a sustainable income and a hopeful future. If you’d like to help, please click below to donate towards the future of this family.
To learn more about their story, feel free to watch a video that can be found here: https//www.facebook.com/minoritieswatch/videos/609663986434232/