• James Armstrong

Anti-sweatshop and Fair Trade advocate coming to Hudson


Empowering women and protecting the human rights of abused children are the motivations for Nasreen Sheikh’s life work.

Nasreen Sheikh, a young Nepali woman who survived forced child labour in a sweatshop in her native country of Nepal, will be speaking about her life experiences at the Hudson Village Theatre Thursday, April 18 at 7 p.m.

Born in a southern Nepal village, Sheikh’s birth, like most other Nepali female births, was not registered meaning she does not know her precise age. At the age of nine or 10, she was working 15 hours per day in a Nepalese sweatshop and receiving less than $2 per shift if she was paid at all. By the age of 21 or 22, her family had arranged a forced marriage. In her website biography, Sheikh describes the situation as one of total subjugation.

“As girls, we are simply a commodity that is bought and traded as such. We are not human beings,” she said. With a great deal of courage, determination and fortitude, Sheikh escaped the sweatshop and rejected the forced marriage situation.

Empowering disadvantaged women

Sheikh sought help from a total stranger who taught her to read and write. Education provided the tools for her escape and became the motivation for helping disadvantaged women in Nepal and around the world. She founded a fair trade sewing collective, Local Women’s Handicrafts, based in Kathmandu, Nepal. She also launched a public health and education initiative and in the process has become internationally recognized as a public speaker on these issues (visit www.nasreensheikh.com).

“What motivates me every day is to believe in love and believe in service to others,” Sheikh told The Journal on Wednesday, April 10. “I don’t want any children to have the kind of experience I had as child,” she said. This is her first visit to Canada and she’s very excited to have Hudson included in the tour.

Hudson speaking engagement

“We are extremely fortunate to have her coming to Hudson to speak,” said Pure Art Foundation Director Robert McKinnon. His fair trade foundation is the organizing force behind Sheikh’s Hudson engagement.

McKinnon added. “Thanks to World Vision, Fairtrade Canada and the Canadian Buy Good Feel Good Show, Nasreen Sheikh is in Toronto on a speaking tour. At the last minute, she agreed to come to Hudson,” said McKinnon.

Tickets for the event are available at $10 each on the Hudson Village Theatre website at www.villagetheatre.ca or by calling the theatre box office at (450) 458-5361. They can also be purchased at the Pure Art Boutique at 422 Main Road, Hudson. All proceeds will be donated to Nasreen Sheikh’s foundation.