There are over a million laborers working under debt bondage in the brick kiln sector of Punjab, Pakistan. This pilot project aims to disrupt the cycle of debt bondage by empowering families working in this sector. The program will provide alternative work skills (stitching) to 9 girls between the ages of 15 – 25 years, from families that are working under debt bondage at a Brick Kiln near Lahore, and provide participants the opportunity and training to leverage these skills to gain employment or start a home based business.
The practice of debt bondage pivots on an exploitative economic support system that entices disenfranchised workers and their families by offering them advances on their future labor. The installments of the debts are deducted from their weekly income which forces them to survive at subsistence level. Once they start working in the brick kiln sector they enter into the self-perpetuating cycle of debt and dependency that continues for generations.
The Project is being conducted at a Christian community of brick kiln workers near Lahore. With the help of community elders, 9 girls between the ages of 15 – 25 years were selected from families that were working at a brick kiln under debt bondage. A Stitching Center was established in the community, where the participants have been receiving training since November, 2017. The training of the participants is now complete.
After completion of their training, the participants are now being given practical experience to refine their skills. The PAL team has taken measurements of 120 children from the community and a nearby community of brick kiln workers. The participants will prepare a Slawar Kameez suit for these children before the 25th of December, 2018. PAL has provided the participants with the cloth and other materials required to complete this order. After completion, the participants will present the suits to the families of the children at an informal gathering that will be organized by PAL. The participants will also receive suitable compensation for their work.
In the final stage, the participants will be given a month-long training (5 sessions) on running a home based business. During this stage, the PAL team will also work with the families of the participants to use the funds that the participants have earned to 1) partially pay off the family debt, 2) setting up a home-based business for the participants, or 3) fund a family business that could supplement their monthly income in the long run. The PAL team will then work with and facilitate these families to implement their finalized plans.
The experiences gained and lessons learned from this project will be used to design a larger program. This program will employ a holistic approach towards empowering brick kiln workers to become self-reliant and self-motivated skilled workers who have the cognitive and analytical ability to free themselves of debt and poverty.