Life On The Job



Famous or Historic People

Iqbal Masih (1983-1995) - Carpet Weaver, Child Labour Activist

Portrait

Introduction

Iqbal Masih was born in 1983 in Muridke, a commercial city outside of Lahore in Punjab, Pakistan. At age four, he was sold into bondage by his family. Iqbal's family borrowed 600 rupees (less than $US6.00) from a local employer who owned a carpet weaving business, and in return, Iqbal was required to work as a carpet weaver until the debt was paid off.

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 20 kg. (Source: Wikipedia)


Quote

His Story 

Iqbal's rug-making career, like that of many child rug-makers, began when he was called in one day from play and sent by his parents to work off a loan (about $12 US) they got from a rug-maker in order to pay for their elder son’s wedding. He was four years old. Unlike most such children, he got free at the age of 10, and started campaigning against forced labor by children to pay off debts. By the age of 13, he was dead, but not before his message reached the hearts of a
great many people.

A Child Rug-maker’s Life

Iqbal first had to work an entire year as an apprentice with no pay. After that he was “paid” about 20 cents US per day. (This is in quotes because he didn't receive the money. It was subtracted by the rug-maker, his employer, from what he owed.) However, his employer also added to what he owed the cost of his food and the tools he used to do his work. If Iqbal made mistakes, he was fined, and this, as well as interest, was added to the loan balance.

Iqbal’s family also borrowed more money. So, as Iqbal got older, the debt grew. It looked like he would be like many children who never escape, who remain in debt-bondage for life. By the time he was 10 years old, the loan, had grown to about $260 US. Iqbal and the other children worked squatting on wooden bench in front of the looms. They worked 6 days a week, 14 or so hours a day, in rooms with poor light. They were not allowed to talk to each other, because this would mean they weren’t concentrating on the work.

The rooms had no ventilation and were extremely hot because open windows were considered bad for the carpets. The air was full of particles from the fibers they worked with. Their work
requires skill and care in order to tie the knots in the right places.
It requires small hands, and that is one reason why the rug-makers like to use children for this work. A 4 by 6 foot carpet has more than a million knots and takes an experienced weaver 4-6 months to complete. Its retail value in the United States is $2000— more some say than the worker could earn in 10 years. (Silver, 1996)

Bonded labor is not unique to Pakistan, nor does it involve only children, and it is found in many types of manufacturing besides rug-making.

Iqbal Gets Free

BLLFIqbal first heard of the Bonded Labor Liberation Front (BLLF) in 1992, when he was ten
years old. This organization was founded by a Pakistani named Ehsan Ulla Khan in order to help
children like Iqbal. Iqbal learned that the system of bonded labor he was working under had been
outlawed in Pakistan in 1992, and that the government had cancelled all outstanding
loans to these employers. The BLLF helped him get the papers he needed to force his
employer to free him.

Like many rug-making children, after years of bending forward to tie knots and breathing air filled with dust from rug-making materials, Iqbal was sick and looked frail. He was about half the height he should have been at age 10, less than four feet tall, and weighed only 60 pounds. His body had stopped growing. He also suffered from arthritis, and kidney and breathing problems; and his spine was permanently curved. His hands were covered with small scars from cuts made by rug-making tools.

Nevertheless, Iqbal jumped at the chance to study at a BLLF school in Lahore, not far from his home village of Muridke. He studied hard, and finished 4 years of work in just 2 years.

Iqbal Becomes An Activist

Iqbal became an activist against child labor. He repeatedly took risks, pretending to be a factory worker so he could get information from the children working there. He helped free 3000 children from bondage in textile and brick factories, tanneries, and steelworks. (Silvers, 1996, p.
90).

He became a very good speaker, and began to speak at BLLF meetings about his experiences; then he began speaking to international visitors – journalists and activists.

He eventually started going to where he was invited outside Pakistan. For example, he went to Sweden, where he was honored by the International Labor Organization.

ReebokIn 1994, he was invited to the United States to receive the Reebock Human Rights Youth Action Award. While he was there, he visited Broad Meadows Middle School in Quincy, Massachusetts for a day. This visit was to have far-reaching consequences.

Soon after his visit to the US, Iqbal was murdered. There is disagreement about exactly how and why. One story is that a local farmer shot at him and the friends who were with him because he was drunk and angry at something they did, and that killing Iqbal was not his intention. Many people don’t believe this story. They think leaders of the carpet industry had him murdered because of his work to free their workers. About 800 people attended his funeral.

Iqbal Fires Up 7th Graders

Broad Meadows Middle School was chosen for Iqbal’s visit because its students were Iqbal’s age,
and because they had done active work for human rights at the local and international level. He spent a day there. He met with some classes and spoke about his experiences. He had lunch with them. The kids started on their own to bring him gifts like gum, stickers, t-shirts, baseball cards, food, bracelets, and pictures. Then a group of them got together and bought him a backpack to put it all in. In his talks to them, after telling his experiences, Iqbal asked the kids to try to educate
people and to get people to stop buying rugs that are made using children as workers.

One of the students who was there said in an interview 3 years later: “Here was this kid talking kid to kid who felt so much toward what he was doing, he was like burning fire, you can’t just say ‘Oh, okay, great. Good job. Bye-bye now.’ You just look at him and say, ‘I want to help.’ “ (Amanda, New Design Interview, 1997).

In the same interview, Amy said, “I just felt it was very wrong that children are being sold into slavery. So I joined the campaign. And then after Iqbal died, I was just so angry at it that it gave me an urge to do more.” (Amy, New Design Interview, 1997)

These 7th-graders first organized an educational campaign. They got kids to write thousands of letters to anyone they thought could help change things--senators, congressmen and women, government officials. They called local carpet stores asking if the rugs they were selling were made with child labor. The store owners got so angry that they even called the school and demanded that the school stop the kids from asking questions (which the school refused to do). They asked their city government what their policy was on buying carpets. They did all of this on their own time, before or after school.

A School For Iqbal Campaign

The Kids Campaign to Build a School for Iqbal (website not maintained)

Campaign

Then the students decided to build a school in Pakistan in Iqbal’s memory. They called the project “A School for Iqbal,” and they organized it themselves. Since Iqbal was 12 years old when he got the Reebok human rights award, and because he was sold into bonded labor for $12, they decided the number 12 was symbolic, and sent email out to 30 middle schools asking for donations of $12. And 12 schools answered that they would join the campaign. As Amy summarized it (New Design Interview, 1997): “Anybody could get corporate donations….. but what we did was unique in the sense that we collected $130,000 by $12 donations from schools who donated in pennies or other stuff.” She goes on to explain that people also donated computers, things they made for the kids to snack on, and they donated time, and skills, such as typing. Schools ran campaigns to raise money, like selling popsicles. People made things for the kids to sell. Many students who were involved in this effort have continued to be involved, even though they have graduated from Broad Meadows and gone on to other schools for high school. They ended up raising $350,000, enough to not only build a school for 250 children in Iqbal’s village (completed in 1997), but also enough to pay the staff long into the future, as well as to pay for getting 50 kids out of slavery.


Other Schools For Iqbal

The “A School for Iqbal” campaign has gone on to work in other countries. The April 2004
Campaign Update reports: “We try to make a small part of that dream (to have all children free and in school) come true each school year by building a school in Iqbal’s memory in a developing country. We call this effort ‘Operation Day’s Work— USA’. After we built ‘A School for Iqbal’ in Pakistan in 1997, we were invited by USAID to share lessons learned with other US schools. We accepted, and became one of 6 co-founding schools of Operation Day’s-work –USA.”
As of 2004, these young people had reached out to provide education for youth in Haiti, El
Salvador, Nepal, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Sierra Leone. (A School For Iqbal Campaign, 2004).

So, never underestimate what kids can do!
(
Source: Patricia Neyman)

Did You Know?

Various books have been written about Iqbal:

The Little Hero: One Boy's Fight for Freedom: Iqbal Masih's Story by Andrew Crofts

Little Hero

Iqbal - A novel by Francesco D'Adamo (translated by Ann Leonori)

Iqbal a novel

Iqbal Masih and the Crusaders Against Child Slavery by Susan Kuklin

Crusaders

Links:

Moral Heroes: Iqbal Masih

Moral Heroes
World's Children's Prize

Worlds Children's Prize
Iqbal Masih Shaheed Children Foundation

IMSCF
Bonded Labour Liberation Front - Pakistan

BLLF
The Child Labor Coalition

Child Labor Coalition


Los Angeles Times: 31 May 1995

LAT
Who was Iqbal Masih?

Who was Iqbal Masih?


The Kids Campaign to Build a School for Iqbal (website not maintained)

Campaign



YouTube: Iqbal Masih Documentary
(URL: https://youtu.be/UStGtNe6VJ0 )

 

YouTube: World's Children's Prize Laureate: Iqbal Masih
(URL: https://youtu.be/x8MIU5qSmM4 )

YouTube: FREEDOM HERO: IQBAL MASIH
(URL: https://youtu.be/Mz0pP13z7ao )

 

 

YouTube: Iqbal Masih, Child Hero
(URL: https://youtu.be/cW15xzLt2VI )

 

Did You Know?

The 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner for his work in preventing child labour, Kailash Satyarthi, dedicated the award to Iqbal and other martyrs in his acceptance speech.
(Source: Iqbal Masih Pakistan's Unsung Hero)

"I give the biggest credit of this honour to my movement's Kaalu Kumar, Dhoom Das and Adarsh Kishore from India and Iqbal Masih from Pakistan who made the supreme sacrifice for protecting the freedom and dignity of children. I humbly accept this award on behalf of all such martyrs, my fellow activists across the world and my countrymen."


Kailash Satyarthi

Activities

Powerful Ideas - Practical Actions: Free the Children

 PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle  High SchoolSecondary

Personal and Social Capability
Australian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability

Ethical Understanding
Australian Curriculum General Capability: Ethical understanding

Intercultural Understanding
Australian Curriculum General Capability: Intercultural understanding

Craig Keilburger

1. "One morning over breakfast, 12-year-old Craig Kielburger was flipping through the newspaper looking for the comics when he was stopped short by a story: Iqbal Masih, a 12-year-old former child slave in Pakistan, had been murdered because he spoke up for human rights.

Craig was 12. Iqbal was 12. In that moment, he was struck by a single and profound connection – except for the happenstance of birth, he could have been Iqbal – and he needed to do something.

But what? He was only one person, and a boy at that. What possible difference could he make in the lives of child slaves a world away?

What was needed: a collective voice. So Craig convinced a handful of Grade 7 classmates that together they could make an impact, and Free The Children was born."
...

CK PortraitTwenty years later, Free The Children is an international charity committed to delivering a sustainable development model that empowers people to transform themselves, their families, their communities and the world. (Source: Free the Children)

2. Read the story of Craig and his brother Marc at these websites:

Free the Children

Free the Children
Iqbal and "Free the Children"

FTC
Yes! Magazine

FTC Yes
3. With a friend, look at the issues today - in Australia, in Asia, Globally that effect children.

For example, in Australia - Children in Detention

AHRC

Globally: Anti-Slavery Campaign

Anti-Slavery

4. Select an issue or problem involving children needing your help. Using Craig's story as inspiration, work out a social media campaign to engage the students at your school, your local area and then beyond.

5. Let On the Job people know so we can help spread the word.

My Hero Project - Iqbal Masih

 PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle  High SchoolSecondary

Personal and Social Capability
Australian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability

Ethical Understanding
Australian Curriculum General Capability: Ethical understanding

Intercultural Understanding
Australian Curriculum General Capability: Intercultural understanding


1. Look at this story and see what you could do for children in the carpet industry in Pakistan!

Iqbal My Hero Project

Iqbal


2. Go to the following website, Goodweave, and see the stories there about the children forced into working for rug makers.

Goodweave

Goodweave

3. Using Xtranormal, make up a story to explain to students in Middle school what they can do to help this situation.



Xtranormal

A Good Read? What's your review?

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle 

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy

CriticalAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical and creative thinking

ICT Capability Australian Curriculum General Capability: ICT Capability

1. A book review describes, analyzes and evaluates. The review conveys an opinion, supporting it with evidence from the book.

You are to choose one of the three books about Iqbal to read and review:   

The Little Hero: One Boy's Fight for Freedom: Iqbal Masih's Story by Andrew Crofts

Iqbal - A novel by Francesco D'Adamo (translated by Ann Leonori)

Iqbal Masih and the Crusaders Against Child Slavery by Susan Kuklin

From what you have learnt from reviewing the websites listed about Iqbal, what did you learn about Iqbal that you didn't know beforehand after reading this book? 

2. Learn how to review by looking at the following website:

How to Review

3. Review your chosen book. Share with a partner your review. Make any suggested changes.

4. To convince other students to read your review and the book, create an online Poster using

Poster My Wall [Free Tool]

Poster My Wall

Share with the class.


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