#SEVENKEYS

Survivor of Modern-Day Slavery

Social Entrepreneur

Advocate for Global Human
Rights

International Speaker

Hi, I’m Nasreen Sheikh,

I escaped forced marriage, child labor, and extreme poverty, risking everything to experience freedom. Now I have an education, an impactful voice, and a home in the USA and Nepal.

Sadly, there are still over 40 million people who remain in modern-day slavery. I am campaigning on behalf of them by sharing my story around the world and advocating for the Seven Keys to eradicate modern-day slavery:

1. Nutritious Food 2. Clean Water 3. Shelter 4. Health Care 5. Education 6. Safe Environment 7. Access to Technology

Our Non-profit Organization Empowerment Collective is bringing together good people, good government, good business, and good media together, to co-create global human rights with the support of Innovative technology, we can build a new society where every person is free to be a leader, change maker and problem solver.

A Short Timeline - A Long Journey

This is a map of the small, undocumented villiage called Rajura, where I come from. It is located on the border of India and Nepal. I have no idea how old I am. I do not have a birth certificate or a surname, because in my village births are not recorded.
Growing up, I witnessed many atrocities against women and children, many just for 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.

(This is the only childhood photo I own. It was taken by my teacher six months after he began teaching me. It was taken in order to enroll me into some tutorial classes at the local institute.)

At ten years old I became a child laborer for a textile factory in Kathmandu Nepal. I worked 12-15 hours a day like a machine to complete the mountain of garments the manager put in front of me. The sweatshop operated for 2 years before it shut down.

Help came to me in the form of a gentle dog that led me to his kind guardian. Leslie John became my teacher for almost 10 years. Under his mentorship, I was able to learn 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 11 years to issue, and even then, it was riddled with spelling mistakes and date discrepancies. In Arabic it is the name of a man at the top of the hierarchy, the chief of a tribe, or a royal family member. Perhaps he intended to empower me. I didn’t realize this until many years later.

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 0.1 percent of women were business owners. In the heart of Kathmandu, surrounded by businesses built on modern-day slavery, we became free of the cycle of poverty, and I was becoming a social entrepreneur.

A friend encouraged me to start speaking out about the dire situation in Nepal. I was selected to present at Aspire, a women’s leadership conference in Chicago. At 25 years old, I traveled alone from Nepal to the US. What struck me immediately was all the tall shiny buildings, women walking alongside men, and seeing people walking dogs attached to leashes.

In 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shattered Kathmandu, Nepal. This brought huge financial pressure on our organization. My business started to fall apart and I didn’t know what to do.

I walked onto a stage in front 250 women; lawyers, community leaders, and entrepreneurs. What happened next was a moment of powerful awakening. They listened in complete silence to my story, and I was overwhelmed by their response with a standing ovation.

EMPOWERMENT COLLECTIVE

Empowerment Collective USA raises funds and partners with organizations in Nepal and other countries to deliver projects that work towards empowering, educating, and mentoring disadvantaged women and girls.

Local Women’s Handicrafts is an eco-conscious collective of women who create unique fashion and decor in Nepal. Our mission is to create jobs for marginalized and disadvantaged Nepali women to gain financial independence.