Husband and wife have been making bricks since they were little: their parents are in debt and are forced to work in the same factory. Poverty, lockdown, expenses for medicines and food push them into even more debt. “The only way to escape this slavery is to repay the loan we have received”. Help our AsiaNews campaign.
Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – Dilawar Masih and Sana Bibi, husband and wife, both work in a brick factory in Kamalpur. They did not choose their job: due to the debts that Dilawar’s father contracted with the owner of the factory, his children and grandchildren are also forced to work to repay the debt. “I have been working here since I was a child, together with my parents,” he tells AsiaNews. “We are destined to work here because my father and my mother got into debt with the boss and could never pay him back. So, we too are forced to work here ”.
Dilawar Masih and Sana Bibi, 32 and 30 years old respectively, together with their four small children are one of the 45 families that AsiaNews has decided to help by giving them food parcels. Thanks to the campaign launched by our newsagency, the distribution of gift packages is taking place for the second time this week. The AsiaNews correspondent went to visit them at home. The whole family lives in one room with crumbling brick walls, made available by their boss. The room is barley inabitable, with a mud oven for cooking and a water pump. But there is no toilet.
Sana Bibi says: “We don’t have a bathroom in the house. This is why we have to go to the fields for our needs. But we have to do it secretly because the owners of those fields don’t want us to. But what else can we do, men and women, for our needs? “.
The woman helps her husband to build bricks and pay off the family debt, but – she says – “I can’t help him as I would like to. In the past, while I was giving birth to one of my babies, I had to undergo surgery. And I still have great pains in my back. Plus, having no health coverage, we have to pay for the medicines. This means that in order to treat ourselves we run into further debt and continue to work to repay it. It is truly a miserable life ”.
“I’ve been surrounded by bricks since I was born, just like my husband, like our parents. We can’t do any other work, or go anywhere else until we pay off the debt to the factory owner. And if one day we don’t go to work, they force us from home and force us to work because they say we have to pay off the debt. The only way to escape this slavery is to repay the loan we have received “.
Dilawar Masih explains. “For my wife’s surgery I had to take a loan of 100,000 rupees [about 515 euros]. Last month, I borrowed another 10,000 rupees [52 euros] to buy something for Christmas, including some heavy clothes for the children. It is practically impossible to avoid debt: in winter and in the rainy season, most of the brick factories remain closed. Last year they remained closed also due to Covid and the lockdown. But we have to run the family, feed our children, so loans are the only way out “.
The gift packages offered by AsiaNews contain flour, spices, legumes, oil, sugar, tea, rice and soap. The quantities are sufficient to support a small family for 15 days.
Before eating, in misery and deep-rooted poverty, the family gathers to pray. “We pray every day – says Dilawar Masih – and we have faith in Jesus Christ, the only Savior who can free us from this situation”.
“My wife’s health conditions – he continues – are not good. Yet she must continue to help me because alone I cannot earn enough to support my family. This is why I always feel not only poor, but also weak and helpless. The owner of the brick factory only pays me 65% of my salary; he keeps the rest as an installment of the debt. Until we pay him back in full, the boss doesn’t allow us to go elsewhere or do another job. If someone among the people of God has the opportunity to help us repay the debt, it would be a grace: it is the only possibility we have of saving ourselves from this slavery “.
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