Twenty-five-year-old Gori Aslam is part of a rubbish-collecting community in Lahore, Pakistan. She lives with her husband and three children and their four-year old donkey called Ladu, meaning “to eat”. “I call him this for love because he provides food for my family.”
The families and donkeys here live in makeshift homes and shelters surrounding the large piles of rubbish. Under the Pakistan sun, the rubbish is smelly and the air thick with flies. This is the everyday reality for people working in these communities.
Gori and her family get up at 4am, hitch Ladu to the cart and they all walk the busy Lahore streets looking for rubbish. Once the cart is full, they head back home to sort it, finishing by 2pm. A day’s work earns the family between 200 and 300 rupees (approximately £1.50 - £2).
Once her working day is finished, Gori has household chores. She is responsible for cleaning and cooking for her family, as well as looking after Ladu: “After work I unharness Ladu and offer him water. I also clean the stable and offer food. Before we sleep I will offer him more water.”
Gori is part of a women-only donkey welfare group facilitated by Brooke and led by Brooke Pakistan’s only female vet, Dr Sabira Nazir.
Dr Sabira and her team visit the group every other week and lead a community engagement session with the women. Each session focuses on a different topic of animal welfare, including nutrition, wound management and stable care.
I have learnt lots since attending Dr Sabira’s sessions. Before I would treat my donkey with homemade remedies if it was sick. For example, if he showed signs of colic, I would feed him onion weeds. Now, I know that he needs to see a vet if this happens, but that it can be prevented with a balanced diet and lots of water. Or, if he had a wound, I would rub cooking oil into it but now I know that it needs to be properly cleaned and disinfected.
If we had no donkey we would starve, our lives would collapse.
Despite being just 25, Gori does not see any way out of her situation, but hopes that by saving what little money she can, she will be able to afford to get her children an education, although currently none of them go to school: “My life is passed but the future of my kids is important and I hope they will go to school. The animal income is linked to my family.”
“If we had no donkey we would starve, our lives would collapse. My only option would be to get a loan, which would double the burden on my children and family.”