Building community ownership for bonded labourers in bricklins

Written by Rajneesh Kumar Yadav, Sachin Kumar and Rituu B Nanda

This is a story from Kukdaha Community vigilance committee (CVC)[1] in Jhalupur, Uttar Pradesh. Our MSEMVS team supported by Geneva Global and funded by Freedom Fund has been working here to bring labourers out of bondage from brick kilns and encouraging them to address their livelihood, government services and anti-slavery issues so that they do not get entrapped in the same situation.

 It was in 2011 when we came across some people from this area. We helped some of them get out of their bondage in brick-kilns . This helped them to develop trust in us. Soon they set up a Community Vigilance Committee (CVC) consisting of survivors, of same caste, vulnerable families, activists in the village. The CVC consisted of members from nearby villages like Bantari and Mokulpur. We also linked them to our CVC network of seven districts. This gave them insight of what the issues related to bondage were in the region.

One of the challenges of working with those in bondage in brick-kilns, stone quarries etc. is that the workers do not realize that they are in bondage. They think getting exploited, not getting wages that are due to them, being beaten up is part and parcel of their life.  In our experience, providing information is not enough. We try to encourage the community to think. Conversations are centred around issues like what happens if your children continue to work like you and do not go to school.  Sharing and exchanging during CVC network meeting and exposure visits helps them think of their own situation and gives them courage that like others they too can do something to improve their lives.

When we form a CVC we encourage it to take care of not only its own community but also engage with other communities. CVCs are best placed to do this as they know the situation of their relatives and friends in nearby villages. Through CVCs we also get to learn who are in bondage around the area.

Our role has changed. We began by mobilizing the community but now we are partners. If they feel there is something wrong they now tell us, we want this information. We don ‘t tell them what to do but they tell us what they want.  Now this community has set up its own brick-kiln. They have collected money to buy raw material to make bricks. They are working in other brick-kiln to raise money to run their own brick-kiln. They have a future plan on how they will sell their bricks,  and at what rate.They have become self-reliant. We used to run the Anti slavery chariot now community does it in their own way. Our role now with the community is of linking them to different government services and schemes. Legal advice is very important in the bondage cases. Sometimes the community members give up as court cases continue for a long time but then we are there to support them and keep them going . Now we mentor the community but they also mentor us. What we have learned from this? We need to give substantial time for community engagement process. This does not happen instantly. To just build a relationship with community may take say six months. So if in our case we want –self sustained liberation, we had to give ample time. Also many times community is not aware of its strengths, our role is to help them realize their strengths. Then they will take action.

Our aim has always been to prepare the community how they will resolve their own issues- so that we are not needed. We can then shift our focus to another community! 



[1] Community Vigilance Committee is a group of survivors and vulnerable members from community which organized to take action against different forms of slavery in non-organized trades. 

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Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on June 23, 2015 at 7:15pm

Here is a facebook response from Ganga from Volunteers for Social Justice, Punjab 

Ganga Sekhar Commendable efforts. Community leadership is paramount to the fight against slavery. That's what VSJ - DDVA 's work is all about! Thanks for sharing Rituu !
Comment by Autry Haynes on May 24, 2015 at 2:17pm

The T- of SALT is TRUST and this worked for you, kudos to YOU (^_^)

Comment by Sachin Kumar on May 21, 2015 at 7:53pm

Indeed great effort for community building to fight against atrocities. I wish in coming years such learning would add in changing overall scenario against slavery. 

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