Unchosen, an anti-trafficking charity that organizes film campaigns to combat modern slavery in the U.K. and Ireland, is launching its 2014  Short Film Competition. The aim is “to challenge what people choose not to see.”

“The more people that know about the matter, the more likely it is to cause effective change,” says Unchosen.


Film entries from 2013 featured shorts on domestic servitude, sexual abuse and forced labor. Last year’s winner was titled “The Trip,” directed by Prano Bailey-Bond. It dramatizes the true story of Hung, a young Vietnamese man trafficked abroad on the promise of a job and a new life, only to be forced to work in a cannabis factory.

You must register by May 23 to be considered for this year’s competition, and complete your film by August 13.

Dan Elkes Joins FTS Board

Elkes_Daniel1Free the Slaves is pleased to announce that philanthropist, business strategist and biotech executive Daniel Elkes has joined the FTS board of directors.

Dan currently works in the biotechnology industry as the director of the pipeline and portfolio planning group at Genentech, where he uses his expertise in strategic planning, decision analysis and pharmaceutical development to help guide work developing treatments for life threatening diseases. He was previously employed at Medarex, where he was part of the team that developed a revolutionary immunotherapy for oncology, and has also served as a management consultant.

Dan received his Ph.D. in genetics from Harvard University, and earned a Certificate in Public and International Affairs from his undergraduate studies at Princeton University, where he graduated with an A.B. in molecular biology. He has a strong background in Japanese culture and language, and learned Japanese and studied Japanese business practices at Matsushita Electric in Hirakata, Japan.

“I am delighted that Dan has decided to join the board,” says FTS Executive Director Maurice Middleberg. “He brings a great passion for eradicating slavery and a superb, diverse set of skills, including a remarkable capacity for thinking long-term and strategically. His commitment and ability to “think big” will be great assets to Free the Slaves.

“We are pleased to welcome Dan to the board,” says FTS Board Chair Jane Covey. “He brings deep personal commitment to ending slavery as well as strategic thinking, both of which enhance our capacity to govern effectively.”

Dan has a passion for service and has dedicated his career to the mission of improving the quality of life for those around him.  He serves as a trustee of the Elkes Foundation and lives in San Carlos California with his wife and three children.

FTS brazil

Elite police squads in Brazil have rescued thousands of men, women and children who have been forced into various forms of modern-day slavery. | Photo: FTS/Romano

There was a horrifying phrase in the news this week from Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram in Nigeria, as he spoke about the girls his group has kidnapped.

“There is a market for selling humans,” he said.

He is right, and his comment unveils a terrible truth about the persistence of slavery. Too many people think slavery ended more than a century ago. Though outlawed, slavery continues in new forms, hidden from sight. What makes this incident in Nigeria different is that it is out in the open.

The unpardonable sin being committed Boko Haram should focus our attention on the fact that children are forced into modern-say slavery in nearly every country. Recent research estimates that there are 21 to 30 million people in slavery today, about 26 percent of them children. They are forced to work without pay, under threat of violence, and they cannot walk away. That’s millions of child sex slaves, child labor slaves and child slave brides. According to the Global Slavery Index, there are as many as 700,000 slaves in Nigeria alone.

We applaud the effort to rescue the captive girls and pray for success. Equal determination must be shown to end slavery everywhere once and for all. This means breaking the trade in humans. Rescues are only part of the story. Over the long term, the only cure for slavery is to end the demand for humans as property and choke off the supply of vulnerable people.

Boko Haram and their ilk rightly fear education, especially education of girls. Children and adults who are educated about their rights are less likely to succumb to slavery or be duped by traffickers. Children who are not in school are particularly vulnerable to being enslaved. An educated child has options in life. An educated child is of value to her family and less likely to be entrusted to a trafficker, sold or married into slavery. A school is often a social anchor around which a community organizes to stand up for its rights and resist slaveholders and traffickers.

Trafficking and slavery fall disproportionately on highly vulnerable communities. Putting an end to slavery will require educating adults and children in these communities. They will need the support of capable non-governmental organizations and community anti-slavery committees, which can act as buffers and protectors against slavers and traffickers. They must have access to schools, essential health care and legitimate sources of credit so predators do not exploit them.

On the demand side, consumers should be directed to products and companies that are not tainted by slavery in their supply chains. Individuals and institutional investors should insist the companies they own follow responsible policies and practices that reduce the demand for products made by slaves. Companies should openly post their anti-slavery policies and practices. Companies that fail to act responsibly must be subjected to severe penalties.

Better laws and more aggressive law enforcement are also needed to reduce demand. According to the U.S. State Department, the punishment for people convicted of trafficking in Nigeria can be a modest fine ($645-$1,250), which is not enough to deter criminal behavior. In 2012, the last year for which data are available, only 25 people were convicted of trafficking in Nigeria. This is typical of a very widespread, global pattern of lax laws and even weaker law enforcement in response to slavery.

So may the righteous anger over the Boko Haram crime inspire a renewed commitment to eradicating slavery.  While we wait and hope for the rescue of the Nigerian girls, let us also mobilize on behalf of the millions who did not appear in the headlines.

Editor’s Note: Listen to Maurice discuss the Nigeria situation and global slavery on San Francisco talk radio this week at 14:15 into this online podcast recording.

Wherever Free the Slaves works, there are poignant and inspiring stories of women who would give anything to protect their children from slavery.

  • In Nepal, Lucky was forced to leave her daughter behind when she escaped enslavement in an Indian circus. She set in motion a coordinated international effort to rescue her daughter, who is now safely reunited with her mother.
  • In India, women have organized “Mother’s Club” meetings to develop ways to improve their children’s education and safeguard them from traffickers.
  • In the Congo, Ombeni, who was once abducted by a soldier and held in sex slavery, began training in sewing after her liberation. She now owns a sewing boutique and is able to provide for her two children.
  • In Ghana, Kofi summed up the joy he experienced after he and his brother were rescued from fishing slavery: “At long last we can go back to our mother, escaping this slave master and all his cruel treatment.

Donate to Free the Slaves in honor of your mother, and you can send her a customizable e-card with this photo for Mother’s Day. Click here.

Because of the work you support through Free the Slaves, mothers and countless others have been given the tools, training and support to rescue their children, reunite their families and protect entire villages from traffickers.

Maybe you are a mother. Or maybe your mother resembles the strength and sacrifice of the women overcoming slavery today. This Mother’s Day, you can empower and protect mothers around the world.

Please contribute to Free the Slaves through our Mother’s Day e-card initiative.

There are thousands of NGO’s working toward a better future. Whether it is environmental issues, poverty reduction, anti-human trafficking, disaster relief or veteran services, the world’s civil society is on the rise.

Classy Awards

To honor these organizations and the people who are putting their lives on the lines for others everyday, the Classy Awards, in conjunction with the United Nations Foundation, is awarding U.S and Canadian organizations that are “champions of social progress.”

Classy Awards judges look for nominees that are leaders who are innovative in the way that they tackle social issues. Nominees are goal oriented, take risks, and are making a huge difference in the world.

CLASSY AwardThis year in the Human Rights and Social Justice awards category, Free the Slaves has been chosen as a top five nominee for  labor rights. We were chosen because of our dedication to bring people out of slavery and into freedom by addressing slavery’s root causes and helping those who are enslaved to liberate themselves.

The awards ceremony is May 3rd in San Diego, and Free the Slaves Executive Director Maurice Middleberg will be on hand. Our thanks to the Classy Awards judges for honoring Free the Slaves as a top nominee.