a children's book project on young education activists from around the world, portraits, illustration by penelope dullaghan

For day 3 of these young activists illustrations, meet Iqbal Masih. He was a small Pakistani boy, who, at age 4, was sold into bondage by his family. Iqbal’s family had borrowed 600 rupees (less than $6.00) from a local employer who owned a carpet weaving factory. In return, their son was required to work as a carpet weaver until the debt was paid off. Every day, Iqbal would rise before dawn and go to the factory, where he and 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 toward the loan.

At the age of 10, Iqbal escaped his slavery, but was soon caught by police brought back to the factory, who said they would tie him upside down if he tried to escape again. But Iqbal escaped a second time and he attended the Bonded Labour Liberation Front School for former child slaves and quickly completed a four-year education in only two years.

Iqbal helped over 3,000 Pakistani children that were in bonded labor to escape to freedom. He made speeches about child labour throughout the world, encouraging others to join the fight to eradicate child slavery.

Iqbal was fatally shot in Pakistan in April of 1995. He was 12 years old at the time. It’s unknown if he was murdered murdered because of his influence over bonded labor. His funeral was attended by approximately 800 mourners. “The Little Hero: One Boy’s Fight for Freedom” tells the story of his legacy.

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Thank you for reading these rather long post and for your encouragement in sharing these young activist’s stories. The final portrait and post in this series will be coming tomorrow.