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Entrepreneur, former bonded labourer, helps other families escape debt bondage

December 14, 2016

Debt bondage is common in parts of India, whereby poor individuals take out loans at extortionate rates from employers and are then forced to work off the debt, working for the same employer. One such labourer, Satendra, used to work in a brick kiln where he and his family received little payment for long and exhausting hours of work. He endeavoured to leave the kiln permanently, and when he met a representative from ROSA, one of the Freedom Fund’s partners in Uttar Pradesh, he began attending regular group meetings and learned more about bonded labour and about his rights as a citizen. Thanks to ROSA’s support and Satendra’s participation in the community group, he was eventually able to get out of bonded labour.

During his community group meetings, Satendra also learned about savings and loans activities and about the importance of gaining access to capital. He proposed an income-generating business idea that would benefit his family. After hearing his proposal, the community group provided Satendra a loan of approximately $130 to purchase a vegetable cart, which he used to transport vegetables to shop owners and the local market. After purchasing his vegetable cart, Satendra began to save a larger amount of his earnings, bolstering his financial security and reducing his family’s vulnerability to exploitation.

When Satendra had paid back the loan from the community group, the group could pass on the funds as a loan to another family. As a result, another family was able to start their own income generating activity and eventually have enough economic independence to exit their situation of bonded labour. Because of these community members’ efforts, ROSA is seeing an increased understanding of the importance of saving and motivation to do so by members of community groups.

The Freedom Fund’s Northern India hotspot is reducing trafficking, bonded labour and harmful child labour in two of India’s poorest states. Find out more about our Northern India hotspot here.

Photo credit: Alice Carfrae

Written by
Ginny Baumann
Senior Program Manager