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). Her father, Mr Rafeeq had bought a lump sum of INR 20,000 (USD 250) from a local business owner Mr Hari (name changed for security purposes) back in 2005 with an unfair interest rate (Click here to know about a family that died smothered by interest). When the time came to pay his due, the amount had gone up to over INR 70,000 (USD 950). His lender, being a powerful man and a business owner in town began threatening the Mubarak Family. Mr. Rafeeq being illiterate and physically challenged did not have any means to repay this huge amount. He lacked the resources or the smart to take this matter to the authorities. Rafeeq somehow managed to put together INR 30,000 but Hari was not so happy. He demanded that Farzana, the only daughter who was in college at the time, to come to fulfill her father’s debt. She signed a 4-year legal contract in 2009 and began to work in a metal factory that Hari owned, for a monthly salary of 500 (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 the girl. 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, like 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 Farzana was immediately taken under our wings. We trained her in fashion designing and paid her a monthly allowance. Her father was enrolled in Government schemes to avail of monthly support. After six months of training, Farzana started a little tailoring shop in her locality and started earning more than ever.
India is still under the clutches of such injustices (Click here to know more about debt-related slavery in India) despite its booming economy. We pray that not another Farzana has to lose her life 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.