Free the Slaves South Asia Director Supriya Awasthi has great news to share with FTS supporters for International Women’s Day on Sunday. The photo she sent recently says it all. The women of Hirapur are free!
That’s Supriya in front on the right. She and our front-line partner group in India have been working in Hirapur for more than two years. And it’s paid off.
“The women in this selfie met us in the open and were excited and happy to share stories about their liberated life,” Supriya says. “They do not work in forced labor and are free to work and leave the village when they want to. Their children go to school.”
Hirapur is a small hamlet in India’s notorious “brick belt.” Like many communities, people here are impoverished and marginalized—making them vulnerable to predatory money lenders when financial emergencies strike. Villagers who borrow are enslaved at the local brick kiln—often for life.
Debt bondage is illegal in India, but not everyone knows that. And enslaved villagers often find it difficult to visualize that breaking free might be possible. But in Hirapur, Supriya and our partners carefully helped villagers craft a plan. They held secret meetings inside a thatched roof building.
“I remember shedding tears in front of you,” one of the villagers told Supriya about the intensity of those secret meetings. “But shedding tears gave me strength to get organized and get liberated.”
The children of Hirapur are now being educated. A slavery survivor is their instructor.
There are two major themes for this year’s International Women’s Day. One theme is: “Make it Happen.” The women of Hirapur have done just that.
The second theme is: “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it.” FTS supporters have done just that. Your ongoing contributions gave Hirapur villagers a shot at freedom. And that made Supriya’s selfie picture possible.
Learn more about the FTS India program on our website.