“We will never go back into slavery again,” powerful women speak out through the lens of Lisa Kristine

March 17, 2021

50 countries have now ratified the ILO Forced Labour Protocol. To illustrate this critical milestone, we invite you to discover an inspiring photograph of powerful women, made by the famous photographer Lisa Kristine. We asked Lisa to tell us the story behind this photo representing hope and empowerment for victims of modern slavery.

Photo: Pilars, India (© Lisa Kristine)


Lisa Kristine, humanitarian photographer and 50 for Freedom champion, has traversed the world to document modern slavery. Amongst the inhuman conditions in which victims of forced labour were living, she found sparks of hope, like the courage of these women that stood up for their community. Lisa told us their story.


50 for Freedom: Lisa Kristine, you have taken many photos documenting the horrible abuses of modern slavery. But this photo gives a message of hope. Could you tell us who these women are and how you met them?

Lisa Kristine: These women come from a particular village in India where the entire community had been enslaved for generations. Forced to work for more than 16 hours a day, often in unbearable heat, using primitive tools to break large stones into small pebbles, they toiled relentlessly. The women depicted in the photograph rallied the community and led them to freedom. Today, the villagers continue to do the same backbreaking work; however, they have their own quarry, are paid, and work for themselves in freedom. It makes all the difference in the world.

50FF: How did they manage to gain their freedom? 

LK: Some partners of the NGO Free the Slaves worked with the villagers to understand their rights. Eventually, they all took a bus to meet with a solicitor to get help. However, the slaveholders of the village found out about their plan. Upon their return, the villagers discovered their homes burned to the ground. As you might imagine, they were frightened and wanted to give up. But the woman featured in the center of the photograph convinced them: “Yes, we have nothing. So, we have nothing left to lose.” Over the course of a year or two, they managed to get a quarry lease of their own with the activists’ help. Now they are free, and their children go to school!

 50FF: What does their story inspire you?

LK: I remember the women telling me proudly: “This is our quarry, we are now the owners, and we will never go back into slavery again.” They are the heroes who give me hope and inspire me to continue my work. They clearly show us what true power is and exemplify the resilience of the human heart!


Find more about Lisa’s work on her website: lisakristine.com


Interview conducted by Aurélie Hauchère Vuong, 50 for Freedom campaign, International Labour Organization