A couple of weeks ago social media found a new star. The famous Facebook page Humans of New York (HONY) posted interviews about a wonderful Pakistani woman called Syeda Ghulam Fatima. I have been following this page for almost a year, and though HONY has stunned me many times, this is probably the biggest impact it ever had on me. Not only is Fatima’s story amazing, but the response it got was breathtaking – bringing people together from all over the world.
Fatima has dedicated her life to helping families escape from bonded labor in brick kilns. Though it may seem unbelievable today, modern day slavery does exist, and is an enormous problem in Pakistan. The laborers work in extreme conditions, they barely get paid, and if they die their debts are directly passed on to their relatives. It’s impossible to escape and if the families try to run the owners will retaliate with physical and sometimes sexual violence. The whole operation at these places is illegal, but corruption and bribery limits the police from interfering. That’s why Fatima has been leading the Bonded Labor Liberation Front, an organization fighting for these people.
The stories Fatima has to tell are truly inspiring, and Humans of New York have been posting them in fragments. Brandon Stanton, owner of the Facebook page, posted a link to a fundraiser, asking people to help extend Fatima’s very limited budget. It seems like social media has done its part. The stories about Fatima being electrocuted, abused and shot for trying to make a change, combined with stories of the families she has saved, made me and apparently a lot of people stir in our regular browsing-positions, and has urged us to make a difference ourselves. The fundraiser kept ticking during the few days it was open for donations.
One woman has inspired so many people. And it wouldn’t have been possible without the power and reach of social media. That makes me praise not only the people involved, but also the technology of our time.
HONY wasn’t the only one to acknowledge Fatima. In January, VICE News uploaded a video on YouTube featuring Fatima, where she was asked if she feared death. The answer came quickly:
”No, I´ve seen death very closely. There have been many murder attempts against me. They put a pistol to my head. I have been beaten many times. I was sent to jail. But when I see the state of the kiln workers, and the brutalities committed against those women, after seeing those, I don´t fear death.”
Fatima’s bravery and unselfishness has inspired individuals to raise close to 2 million dollars for her cause. Now she can continue helping people without fearing for her own economic situation.
A statement was posted on HONY, where she thanked everyone involved. This woman certainly has touched the hearts of many. She is a true fighter, and has now become a role model for many women and men, all over the world. We need more people like her, and Fatima’s story is a great example of what social media can do when harnessed properly to promote positive change and inspire people. By using social media to raise our voices and share inspiring stories, we can encourage more people to get together and make a change faster than it has ever been possible before.