In this post, I'll write about one of the people who influenced a lot for the world. This particular person became a symbol of abusive child labor in the developing world.
Iqbal Masih is a Pakistani boy who helped more than 3.000 underaged children escape from slavery. He was born in 1983 in Muridke, a commercial city outside of Lahore in Punjab, Pakistan.
It all started from his own experience. He was 4 years old when his parents sold him to be a slave for 12 dollars or Rp. 120.000. He was sold to a carpenter. But some also say that his parents borrowed money and in return Iqbal was required to work until the debt was paid.
Every day, he would rise before dawn and make his way along dark country
roads to the factory, where he and most of the other children were
tightly bound with chains to prevent escape. He would work 12 hours a
day, seven days a week, with only a 30-minute break, paid 3 cents a day
for the loan, but no matter what Iqbal did the loan just got bigger and
bigger. Iqbal stood less than 4 feet tall and weighed only 20kg.
At the age of 10, Iqbal escaped his slavery, after learning that bonded
labor was declared illegal by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. But sadly he was caught by police brought back to Arshad, who told the police to
tie him upside down if he tried to escape again. Iqbal escaped a second
time and he attended the Bonded Labor Liberation Front (BLLF) School
for former child slaves and quickly completed a four-year education in
only two years.
Iqbal helped over 3,000 Pakistani children that were in bonded labour
to escape to freedom and made speeches about child labour throughout the
world. He expressed a desire to become a lawyer to better equip him to free
bonded labourers, and he began to visit other countries including Sweden and the United States to share his story, encouraging others to join the fight to eradicate child slavery.
In 1994 he received the Reebok Human Rights Award in Boston and in his acceptance speech he said: "I am one of those millions of children who are suffering in Pakistan through bonded labour and child labour, but I am lucky that due to the efforts of Bonded Labour Liberation Front
(BLLF), I go out in freedom I am standing in front of you here today.
After my freedom, I join BLLF School and I am studying in that school
now. For us slave children Ehsan Ullah Khan and BLLF have done the same work that Abraham Lincoln did for the slaves of America. Today, you are free and I am free too."
But sadly, on 16th of April 1995, Iqbal was fatally shot in Muridke, Pakistan, shortly after returning from a trip to the U.S. He was 12 years old at the time. Some say that he was shot by a farmer, some say that he was murdered because of his influence over bonded labour. His funeral was attended by approximately 800 mourners. The Little Hero: One Boy's Fight for Freedom tells the story of his legacy.