May 13th is a special day in Brazil. It’s the date Brazilians celebrate the Abolition Act, which outlawed slavery here in 1888. This year marked the 125th anniversary.
Of course, slavery still exists in Brazil even though it has been illegal for more than a century. That’s why officials in several Brazilian states picked this year’s commemoration to launch new anti-slavery initiatives.
In the state of São Paulo, Governor Geraldo Alckmin launched enforcement of a new law to close any business for 10 years if it is found marketing products tainted by slavery.
The exact language for what tainted by slavery means: “in the manufacture of which, in any of its stages of industrialization, have been used practices that characterize conditions analogous to slavery.” Businesses caught selling slavery-tainted goods will have their sales tax license suspended for a decade—making it illegal for the company to continue operating.
Governor Alckman’s announcement came during a conference organized by São Paulo’s Federal Court of Justice. Many judges and attorneys attended, as did American diplomats, former Free the Slaves Global Ambassador Katie Ford, members of the National Commission Against Slavery, and leaders from FTS Brazilian frontline partners Reporter Brasil and the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT).
And there’s more encouraging news! On the same day, May 13, the governor of another state, Mato Grosso do Sul, signed on to a law which is exactly the same as the one approved in São Paulo. And two other states announced they are about to enact similar measures: Maranhão and Tocantins.
Over the past three years, these four states have been among Brazil’s worst slavery hotspots. Nearly 1,900 workers have been rescued in these states by specialized anti-slavery police squads.
This new instrument – to close businesses that make slavery possible – is a big step forward in Brazil’s long campaign to snuff-out slavery forever.
Editor’s Note: Xavier Plassat is a FTS board member and directs the Pastoral Land Commission’s anti-slavery initiative. See a video of him in action.
I’m writing to tell you about an extraordinary man and his remarkable legal clinic in India.
The man is Roshan Lal. He was raised in a family of slaves. Now he is free and helping those still in slavery.
Roshan’s clinic is a testament to his courage and dedication. It’s a small brick outpost surrounded by vast fields of wheat. Women and men crowd inside on a bare floor.
What Roshan accomplishes in this simple setting – work made possible by your continuing support – is proof that victory is possible. Victory against violent moneylenders, contractors and gangsters who afflict this part of northern India.
Roshan’s story is an inspiring example of how your investment in Free the Slaves is an investment in freedom.
Where Roshan lives, slavery endures. His neighbors are forced to make bricks, crush stones and harvest crops under the harshest conditions. They are not paid. They suffer physical and sexual abuse. Roshan knows these hardships. He endured them too.
Fortunately, activists supported by Free the Slaves reached Roshan’s family several years ago. They broke the hold of traffickers. Roshan’s family started new lives in freedom.
This is the transformation that you’re making possible by donating to Free the Slaves. Preventing slavery, rescuing the enslaved, helping freed slaves build new lives, promoting the prosecution of slaveholders.
We work with local partners to combat the schemes and conditions that force people into slavery and allow slavery to persist. Our strategy is effective. We need your help to bring it to many more people like Roshan.
Once free, Roshan was able to resume his education. He’s now in law school, and works as a paralegal in the tiny brick clinic.
“I want to help everyone get their human rights,” he says. “My dream is to bring freedom to everyone who is enslaved.”
There are heroes like Roshan in all our programs. Freed slaves, inspired to help those still enslaved.
I hope that you will take this opportunity to make or renew your contribution to Free the Slaves.
Your gift enables Roshan and others to spread freedom around the world.
Veero Kolhi is no stranger to adversity. She escaped single-handedly from slavery, and she’s helped hundreds of others overcome fear and intimidation to also break free.
Tomorrow, Veero takes another inspiring step: she’s on the ballot for provincial parliament (Seat PS-50, Hyderabad).
You can read about her courageous run for office in one of Pakistan’s leading news sites, Dawn. They say her candidacy is astonishing.
One of her biggest supporters, Ghulam Hyder of the Green Rural Development Organization, says Veero’s campaign platform focuses on empowering the poor and marginalized:
- Release and rehabilitation of 1.7 million bonded labor slaves.
- Just distribution of opportunities for local people to benefit from Pakistan’s natural resources such as water, oil and forests.
- Provision of equal wages and opportunities for women, and enabling women access to the court system to seek justice.
- Ensuring the availability of education, drinking water, sanitation and other basic services.
There are more than 50 candidates competing in the provincial election on May 11. Veero is the only woman on the ballot, and the only slavery survivor to ever run for a general parliamentary seat in Pakistan, Ghulam says.
Pakistan’s elections have been marked this year by violent attacks on candidates. Veero has been subjected to threats, Ghulam says, but she presses forward.
As Veero herself said in her FTS Freedom Award profile video: “The slaveholders have sent messages that I will be murdered. But I don’t fear them anymore. And I will continue to fight. That is the spirit I have inside me.”
POST-ELECTION UPDATE (Monday, May 13): FTS has received news that Veero did not win the election. But everyone involved in her candidacy has felt that her run for office was a tremendous step forward. Veero has issued this statement to supporters:
I, Veero Kohli, your sister, am grateful to the men and women laborers for giving me more than 6,000 votes despite the fact that I could not contact many of you. This shows your confidence in me for which I am personally obliged to each one of you. I have been striving for you in the past and try my level best to come true to your expectations as long I am alive. May you need my assistance and happen to call me I shall proudly rush to you barefooted. Elections apart, I shall continue working on the manifesto declared by me and will contact you in this respect very soon to form a workable strategy for its implementation in letter and spirit.
Confronting the crocodiles was a herculean task and it was expected the rock-hard centuries old system could not be dismantled in a single stroke; nevertheless it is the beginning which is bound to lead to success. I once again offer my sincere thanks to all my benefactors including the people of my class who trusted me and voted for me.
One of our goals at FTS is to “mainstream” anti-slavery work. That means getting field workers for charities and development institutions, such as USAID and the United Nations, to recognize slavery when they see it, and take appropriate action.
A recent article by FTS Associate Programs Director Ginny Baumann helps to do just that.
Her how-to piece, the cover story in the March 2013 edition of Monthly Developments magazine, answers vital questions that can help mobilize development workers into anti-slavery activists. The magazine is read by development and humanitarian aid professionals throughout the world.
She notes that there are both moral and practical reasons to take a stand against modern-day slavery.
“Removing slavery from a community allows other interventions to more fully take root,” Ginny tells aid workers in her article. “If your project focuses on education, microenterprise development, women’s empowerment, health care, migration – you name it – a greater number of individuals will benefit if their community is free from slavery.”
Ginny’s article lists steps that development professionals can take when they witness slavery.
Just as important, she provides cautions for things not to do, things that could actually endanger slaves rather than helping them toward sustainable freedom.
“If development agencies do not equip their staff on slavery, there is a risk that in some places they can become part of the problem,” she concludes. “Their resources can be used to reinforce existing patterns of control and exclusion.”
Ginny says that eliminating that risk is time and money well spent.
Ginny’s full article is now available online by creating a free online user account with the group Interaction, and looking for the March edition of their Monthly Developments magazine.
Our thanks to Interaction for helping to spread the word!
Trickery cuts a wide swath in India’s impoverished communities. People often leave home in search of work, and many find themselves being trafficked instead.
FTS frontline partner MSEMVS aims to change that. And young people are at the heart of the strategy. The goal of the Trafficking Prevention Plan is to stop migration from becoming a road to slavery.
To do that, MSEMVS targets schools in some of India’s most vulnerable villages. Using case studies, posters and pamphlets, they teach students about the risks of migration and the realities of human trafficking.
With millions of people on the move worldwide, it’s easy for traffickers to pose as legitimate labor recruiters. Students are now being taught the warning signs so they won’t fall victim when they grow up.
The events are organized as mass meetings, with 250 to 300 students per site. To make the lesson stick, the approach is interactive. It’s not a lecture. Students discuss ways that they can become agents of change in their own communities.
Organizers provide a telephone hotline number and leave a “Report Box” at schools for anonymous tip-offs about suspicious activities that might be related to trafficking.
It’s working. At one location, students provided more than 30 tips for community organizers to investigate.
This educational initiative is one reason that more and more people are escaping slavery at farms, brick kilns, brothels and factories. MSEMVS reports that in 2012 they helped nearly 800 people move from slavery to freedom.
Learn more about our India program on the FTS website.