Ms. Farzana Mubarak was working in a metal factory until 2013 when she was found by SHAPE. While her work and daily routine seemed totally normal, she was a modern-day slave (Read about slavery in India). in 2005, her father, Mr Rafeeq, had borrowed INR 20,000 (€233) from a local business owner, Mr Hari (name changed for security purposes), with an unfair interest rate (Click here to know about a family that died smothered by interest). When the time came to pay back his loan, the figure had isn’t to over INR 70,000 (€814). Mr Hari, being a powerful business owner in town, began threatening the Mubarak Family. Mr. Rafeeq, illiterate and physically challenged, did not have the means to repay this huge debt. He lacked the resources to take this matter to the authorities. Rafeeq somehow managed to pull together INR 30,000, but Hari was not content. He demanded that Farzana, the only daughter who was in college at the time, fulfill her father’s debt. She signed a 4-year legal contract in 2009 and began to work in a metal factory owned by Hari for a monthly salary of INR 500 (< €6, after reducing the debt). Her youth and womanhood were stolen by the unforgiving conditions of Hari’s factory. During the contract period, Farzana’s mother died, and taking care of Rafeeq became another burden for Farzana to shoulder. After 4 years of paying the debt, she was not young enough, nor did she have the time, for college. It was time for the other socially enforced duties an Indian girl must carry out after 25 – marriage. She continued her work at the factory to save for her marriage dowry.
One of SHAPE’s volunteers brought this story to our attention, and we took Farzana under our wings. We trained her in fashion designing and paid her a monthly allowance. Her father was enrolled in Government schemes to become eligible for monthly support. After six months of training, Farzana started a small, local tailoring shop, and started earning more than ever.
Despite its booming economy, India is still under the clutches of these injustices (Click here to know more about debt-related slavery in India). We pray that no-one has to lose her life, like Farzana nearly did, because of someone else’s mistake. We pray that every woman in India has the freedom to call her own shots.
—A report by SHAPE.