Editor’s Note: Slavery survivor Timea Nagy now helps others escape enslavement on the streets of Canada. She is a recipient of a Free the Slaves Freedom Award for her heroic resilience and ongoing commitment to others. Her group, Walk with Me, has recently released a powerful music video, which we thought you should see. We asked Timea to say in her own words how the video came to be.
As the winter months say farewell, warm weather seems to be right on the horizon. Unfortunately, the coming of summer will bring with it a rise in human trafficking in Canada. Sex slavery will return to the streets, and Walk With Me is making a great effort to raise awareness.
Walk With Me Canadian Victim Services is a survivor-led organization dedicated to raising awareness and providing education about slavery, delivering and coordinating services to support survivors, and advocating action for change. We have trained and assisted more than 60,000 law enforcement personnel across Canada since 2009. Our organization has been involved in big cases such as Project OPAPA, assisting 22 victims in Canada’s largest human trafficking case to date.
The battle against human trafficking is now starting to enlist Canadian musicians and dancers. “Break the Silence” — a song written and performed by Francois Mudler, a young, talented Canadian artist – illustrates the struggles of people exploited by human trafficking.
Hearing Francois’ voice had been one of my personal coping and healing mechanisms when I would feel overwhelmed by work or by flashbacks from my past. I was fortunate to actually meet him. Francois then read my book, “Memoirs of a Sex Slave Survivor,” and said he would be happy to write a song to expand public understanding. The dancer in the video is a young artist, who came to our first fundraising gala last year and asked to volunteer any time we need help.
The song was recorded last September. Every single story in the video is real, and permission was granted by those involved in the cases to include their stories. The idea is for anyone to be able to use the video. It has been launched as a public service announcement, aiming to raise awareness all over the world. Funds that are generated will be used to keep providing services for victims of human trafficking.
Here’s a stylish way to state your commitment to ending trafficking and slavery. We have just partnered with a new sustainable fashion company called Hearts, to create the Free the Slaves Key 2-in-1 necklace/bracelet.
Inspired by the Free the Slaves padlock logo, jewelers designed a pewter key with the letters FTS, which can be worn on the neck or wrist. They cost $32, with $12 from every purchase going to FTS projects that help slaves break free and stay free.
It’s a unique, limited edition fashion accessory that helps make the world a more humane place. The keys are made under fair-trade slavery-free conditions. It’s an inexpensive gift to give to a friend, while giving slaves the gift of freedom. Visit Hearts to order yours.
There are reasons young people end up in slavery today. We’re all vulnerable to harm, one way or another, at one point or another.
Traffickers spot these weaknesses, and pounce when they see an opening.
The campus video channel mtvU has just launched an amazing social media campaign that visualizes how young people can end up enslaved inside the United States.
The Backstory draws you in to become a central character in the storyline. First, you see provocative online ads, and then you see the painful stories behind those seemingly innocuous posts. Soon, you find out how those ads could have turned someone you know in to a slave.
The Backstory is illustrated through a powerful series of videos featuring dancers from Alvin Ailey II, music scored by Kenna and text read by rapper Talib Kweli.
It’s inspired by real stories, including the book The Slave Next Door by Free the Slaves Co-Founder Kevin Bales and historian Ron Soodalter. The idea for the project started with four students at James Madison University, who answered mtvU’s call for innovative digital tools to raise awareness.
The Backstory asks a central question: what would you do? You have several choices for action. The Backstory is part of mtvU’s Against our Will campaign. Free the Slaves is a partner.
Editor’s note: The historic anti-slavery concert last weekend in Myanmar, also known as Burma, was made possible by a coalition of organizations, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). We invited USAID to reflect on what the concert meant for the modern abolition movement. Chris Milligan is USAID’s Mission Director in Burma.
What a year of historic firsts. In April, Secretary Clinton re-established USAID’s mission in Burma, our first in 24 years. In November, President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. President to visit the country, and he and Secretary Hillary Clinton officially dedicated USAID’s mission. And this past Sunday, in Burma’s first city of Rangoon, the first major international live-event was held in over half a century.
The event was Live in Myanmar, MTV EXIT’s 31st concert to counter trafficking in persons. Held in Rangoon’s People’s Square, at the base of the country’s iconic Shwedagon Pagoda, over 50,000 people gathered to hear multi Grammy Award-winning singer songwriter Jason Mraz perform. He was joined by top artists from Burma and Thailand, including Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein and R Zarni, Chan Chan, Sai Sai, Lynn Lynn, Phyo Gyi and Chit Htu Wai, and Slot Machine. The commitment and work by these local and regional artists was particularly moving. All performed for enthusiastic fans, and all came with a common purpose: to raise awareness about human trafficking.
The United Nations estimates that at any one point there are 20 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, more than half of these victims are in the Asia Pacific region. As President Obama said, “The fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time.” And we know that raising awareness is key to that fight. Mixing live music and critical messages, the concert organizers and participants shared in-country contact numbers for counter-trafficking police and NGOs, excerpts from two MTV EXIT documentary videos developed in Burma, and personal stories of individual Burmese who were trafficked in Southeast Asia.
U.S. Ambassador to Burma Derek Mitchell and U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Counter Trafficking Luis CdeBaca both spoke resolutely to the crowd about the U.S. Government’s commitment to combat trafficking in persons globally, and the need for youth to be alert and be educated about trafficking. USAID has been a dedicated supporter of the MTV EXIT campaign for six years, leveraging the power of music and entertainment as invaluable tools to educate young people about human trafficking.
Most exciting was the Government of Burma’s support and involvement in this effort from start to finish. Despite the staggering size of crowd, MTV EXIT’s largest to date, the government ensured a safe event without ever losing the celebratory atmosphere of the concert or the seriousness of the issue. Government representatives spoke passionately and urgently to their youth about personal protection and community awareness, and signed a pledge to work towards the end of human slavery in this generation. Their determination and commitment gave me hope.
I know that ending human trafficking can feel daunting or at times, even impossible, but on Sunday night, looking out at the crowd, I was inspired that it is within reach. We know traffickers use technology, like cell phones, and social networking sites to ensnare victims and, yet, there we were, using MTV’s global platform, which reaches 600 million people with lifesaving messages about awareness, protection and support. As USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah remarked, “As we’ve seen, knowledge can lead to freedom, giving us all the power to end modern slavery.”
Learn more about USAID’s Counter-Trafficking in Persons Policy and Challenge Slavery, a Counter-Trafficking in Persons Campus Challenge that calls on university students globally to develop creative technology solutions to prevent trafficking, enable victims to escape from traffickers, and help survivors recover.
If you’ve ever wondered how far FTS co-founder Kevin Bales will go to end slavery, Sunday’s anti-trafficking concert in Myanmar will tell you.
He’ll give the shirt off his back to spread the word that SLAVERY SUCKS.
In Kevin’s estimation, Jason lacked the proper wardrobe.
Jason describes the experience this week in his online journal:
Moments before taking the stage I ran into Kevin Bales, an economist and hero of mine, whose TED talk introduced modern-day slavery to the social network. I consider Kevin one of the leaders of the ongoing anti-slavery and sustainable-freedom movement and it was seeing him backstage, a long way from California, that I began to experience the important significance of the event. This is a global crisis, and our concert was continuing to bring it into light.
Kevin was wearing a black “slavery sucks” t-shirt and he insisted I wear it during my set. It was already damp and odorous with his sweat from the day’s scorching heat, but I didn’t flinch when he gave it to me. I was honored. He literally took the shirt off his back for me.
For Jason, it was a profound experience. He writes:
Here were 50 thousand attentive people, observing, raising their hands in the air, shouting freedom! They did everything I invited them to do; dance, play and participate…Still, I never turned my attention away from the real issue. I was there as a messenger, helping to spread peace, prevention tools, and protection from the horrors of human trafficking…Anyone can rise to fame and fill an arena. Anyone can go on tour and impress audiences with their unique sound, catchy lyrics or beautiful voice. It happens every season on the latest re-invent of Star Search. But very few get the opportunity to be a first international artist to sing with tens of thousands in a movement to bring an end to human trafficking. I got to do that here in Myanmar. And it was awesome.
You can read more about Jason’s inner journey in Myanmar in his online journal.