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About Nasreen Sheikh

Nasreen Sheikh is a survivor of modern slavery and a visionary leader committed to ending modern slavery through survivor-led initiatives. Her profound journey is interwoven with her roles as the founder of the Empowerment Collective nonprofit organization, an organization dedicated to ending modern slavery, and Local Women's Handicrafts (LWH), a women’s social business venture in Nepal. Her emphasis on a transparent global economic system, supply chain transparency, corporate engagement, and modern slavery legislation are important steps toward ending modern slavery.

Nasreen's life story embodies courage and hope, having emerged from the harrowing shadows of modern slavery. Her personal history illuminates the urgency to solve this complex issue, motivating her to take a transformative stand. Through Empowerment Collective, recognizing the power of survivors in leading the solution with a profound belief in their strength and resilience, Nasreen envisioned an organization that places survivors at the forefront of innovative solutions to this global crisis.

Nasreen's establishment of Local Women's Handicrafts, the social business venture, provided a platform for marginalized women, fostering economic independence through traditional craftsmanship. Nasreen's belief in the potential of women, coupled with her unwavering commitment to preserving cultural heritage, shaped LWH into a thriving safe space for women artisans.

Nasreen's philosophy and advocacy revolve around empowering survivors and individuals with lived experiences of modern slavery to take autonomous roles in leading solutions and spreading awareness. She firmly believes that their firsthand knowledge and resilience are indispensable in crafting effective strategies and initiating societal change.

Nasreen emphasizes community-centric approaches that prioritize the voices and leadership of survivors through education, awareness, and economic empowerment. Nasreen Sheikh’s tireless efforts champion survivor-led initiatives, recognizing them as the catalysts for a future free from modern slavery. Her commitment and transformative vision continue to inspire change-makers globally.

A Short Timeline - A Long Journey

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First known photo of Nasreen Sheikh

I come from undocumented rural village called Rajura, located on the border of India and Nepal. I don’t know my surname or exact birthdate because in my village, births are not recorded. Growing up, I witnessed many atrocities against women and children, often for just speaking their truth. When I saw my 12-year-old big sister being forced into marriage, I knew I would be next. My life seemed destined for the same oppressive path.

With the help of my male cousin, I traveled to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. In my village, sending children to work in a factory was a normal experience. At around ten years old, I became a child laborer for a textile factory in Kathmandu. I worked like a machine for 12-15 hours a day to complete the mountain of garments the manager put in front of me. The sweatshop operated for two years before it shut down. I chose to become a street kid, while others went to another sweatshop. Help came in the form of a gentle dog that led me to his kind guardian. Leslie John became my teacher for almost 10 years.

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Nasreen Sheikh after escaping Modern slavery. 

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Under his mentorship, I learned how to read, write, and understand basic human rights. Leslie John gave me my last name, 'Sheikh,' and helped me apply for a birth certificate. With a reluctant bureaucracy, it took 10 years to issue, and even then, it was riddled with spelling mistakes and date discrepancies.

Nasreen Sheikh with  ST. Leslie John

In Kathmandu, I saw women with deep trauma in their eyes and emptiness in their malnourished bodies. I was determined to empower them. At the age of 16, I managed to secure a loan to set up the first social business in Kathmandu – Local Women’s Handicrafts. We began breaking the rules of oppression in a country where only a few percent of women were business owners. In the heart of Kathmandu, surrounded by businesses built on modern-day slavery, we became free from the cycle of poverty, and I was becoming a social entrepreneur.

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In 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shattered Kathmandu, Nepal. This presented a new challenge to our organization. I realized my fight was not just for economic empowerment but for human rights on a global scale. It was a call to action that could not be ignored, leading me to raise my voice beyond the borders of Nepal. Stepping onto the global stage as a TEDx speaker in the US, I truly understood the global impact of modern slavery in the forms of extreme poverty, forced marriage, and forced labor.

Nasreen Sheikh At LWH shop 

As I traveled the world sharing my story, I conversed with some of the most influential leaders in the world of business, politics, and faith. In these dialogues, I recognized a stark gap between those seeking to end modern slavery and those who lived through it. This realization solidified my belief that true change in the fight against modern slavery will not be spearheaded by celebrities or power figures but by survivors themselves, whose lived experiences are building a path towards genuine solutions.

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The silent voices of these women inspired me to found the Empowerment Collective, an organization for survivors to lead, grow, and heal. I have dedicated myself to promoting a transparent global economic system, supporting modern slavery legislation, and my vision for the future is a world where every child on earth is guaranteed seven key inalienable human rights in the form of clean water, food, housing, education, healthcare, access to technology, and pristine nature.

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