The 13-minute film follows Tara’s efforts to help free a village where everyone is trapped in bonded labor at a brick kiln. Debt bondage is a form of forced labor that is still common in India but is illegal under Indian and international law.
Born to a poor family in a village in northern India, Tara faced caste discrimination her entire life. After her father died at the age of nine, Tara began working at a brick kiln, where her whole family and most of her village were enslaved.
The conditions at the brick kiln were appalling. Her employer forced Tara and her family to work under threat of violence and forbade them from leaving. He would often beat the workers violently, and one of them suffered fatal wounds. Tara couldn’t go to school and had no freedom to travel anywhere. Fearing for their lives, the workers at her kiln were too scared to speak out.
Thanks to the efforts of MSEMVS, a local organization supported by the Freedom Fund, Tara and the other workers were able to free themselves. Now an adult mother of two who runs her own small tailoring business, Tara is a leader in her area who has helped liberate more than 60 bonded laborers. As a member of Azad Shakti Abhiyaan (meaning Strong Campaign for Freedom), a survivors’ collective, she travels from village to village to encourage solidarity among groups suffering caste-based exploitation.
Before the covid-19 pandemic, the rates of bonded labor were falling in parts of northern India because marginalized communities mobilized for their rights. Former bonded laborers like Tara uprooted discrimination by empowering survivors and supporting the ones still trapped. They sent their children to school and advocated for their rights collectively. They joined other survivors across India to raise their concerns with policymakers and change the discourse.
Tara’s work is inspiring, and our hope is that her story will shed light on the problem of debt bondage, and on the people who are finding the power together to end it.
Watch the film here.