It is a familiar story: a child taken, a family frantic for help. But for 24 families in northern India, this time the story has a happy ending. Our inspiring new video shows the boys being rescued, and how spreading information about trafficking and slavery leads to freedom.
The families were struggling to free their teenage sons from a cookie factory far from home. Two dozen boys were tricked by a trafficker who promised good jobs. But the boys were forced to work all night without pay. They were locked-up during the day, sleeping in bare brick barracks on the factory roof under the sweltering Indian sun. The boys were rescued because the “Anti-Slavery Chariot” visited a village where some of the boys were from.
Free the Slaves frontline partner organization MSEMVS tours impoverished remote communities with the mobile information unit, to sound the alarm about the dangers of leaving home for work. One of the chariot’s most powerful tools: a telephone hotline to call for information and leave tips about trafficking cases. One of the families alerted the chariot team about the boys at the cookie factory, prompting a proper rescue with police and a support team.
The boys are now free to be boys once again.
To date, the chariot has reached more than 100,000 people in more than 150 villages. There have been more than 900 calls to the hotline.
With your help, the chariot will help free even more people. Its organizers want to reach another 150,000 villagers who are prey for traffickers.
We hope you will consider an annual gift that transforms lives and breaks the hold of slavery. Every gift is appreciated.
Most Americans inadvertently finance trafficking and slavery through the products we buy every day – from cocoa and coffee to cars, computers, carpets, cell phones and clothing. A new website, launched today, helps consumers, investors, policymakers and companies learn what major corporations are doing about it.
The KnowTheChain website evaluates 500 manufacturing and retail corporations that are required to disclose if they are addressing slavery in their product supply chains. The companies must post this information on their own websites under a California law that took effect last year.
The Know The Chain team has been reviewing these disclosures. They are now posted in one convenient place. Free the Slaves is a partner in the project.
“No consumer, investor or company should be connected to slavery,” says FTS Programs Director Karen Stauss. “When companies comply with the law, it is a first step toward improving corporate behavior because it gives consumers and investors the information they need to make choices. KnowTheChain is an important contribution to that process by telling us which companies are taking that first step of transparently disclosing what they are doing.”
The information for the KnowTheChain website comes from corporate disclosures mandated by California SB-657, the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act. The law took effect last year. It directs retail establishments and manufacturing firms who do business in California and have more than $100 million in global revenue to publicly disclose if and how they are addressing slavery and trafficking in their supply chains. Because California is America’s largest state economy, the measure affects nearly all major stores and manufacturers throughout the U.S.
The KnowTheChain team looked at how well companies are doing on verifying and auditing their product supply chains to know where their products and raw materials come from, and whether companies are training their staffs to look out for slavery-tainted goods and requiring suppliers to certify that their operations are slavery free.
So far, 350 out of 500 major companies evaluated by the team have complied with the law.
The website’s information is not an endorsement of the companies who have complied, nor a call to boycott those who haven’t. Instead, KnowTheChain is intended to be a first step toward fostering discussion, advocacy and compliance.
“The next steps will be to demand that those who are not complying, must comply by disclosing information, and to demand that all industries do more to address the problem of slavery connected to their business,” says Stauss. “We are also seeking a federal law that will build on the California law by clearly defining the full extent of the product and labor supply chains.”
Learn more about national efforts to require corporate disclosure on the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST) website.
Check out the Free the Slaves short video on how companies can structure responsible slavery disclosure programs on our website.
Millions of Americans will soon see the poignant story of a man who was ripped from his family in the 1800s and brutalized by a vicious slaveholder before finally breaking free. It’s important to remember that the events depicted in 12 Years a Slave are still happening today.
Slavery didn’t end with the Civil War or the Emancipation Proclamation. It was outlawed, but not ended. There are 21-30 million people trapped in various forms of modern slavery around the world today, about 60,000 of them right here in the United States. Human trafficking is the modern-day slave trade.
If you see the film 12 Years a Slave, as the closing credits roll and you’re walking out of the theater, please remember that today’s slavery victims need a helping hand just as Solomon Northup did more than a century ago.
The movie is based on a real story. Northup was a literate, free African-American living in upstate New York. He was tricked by a slaver who had promised good work, then kidnapped and trafficked to the South. Northup returned to freedom with the assistance of anti-slavery activists who helped his family assert his legal rights.
Anti-slavery groups like Free the Slaves are doing the same thing today. There are millions of impoverished men, women and children who are easy prey for traffickers. They take risks that frequently lead to enslavement: such as traveling far from home to find a job, or borrowing money for a family emergency and promising to work the loan off at a farm, mine, brick kiln, logging camp or factory.
Although slavery is illegal everywhere today, many in slavery do not know how to stand up for their rights. With community awareness and organizing projects, vulnerable villagers can break free, stay free, and prevent others from falling into slavery in the future. The Free the Slaves model of building community resistance to slavery is succeeding in some of the world’s hottest hotspots for trafficking: Haiti, India, Nepal, Ghana, Congo and Brazil. You can see how our programs work on the frontline partners page of the Free the Slaves website.
The resonance of 12 Years a Slave is that Northop went on to write his own story when he returned to freedom. His book became a bestseller in 1853, and helped build the case for abolition. It proved that the fictional depiction of southern slavery in Uncle Tom’s Cabin was accurate.
Frederick Douglass said this about 12 Years A Slave: “Its truth is far greater than fiction.” (Historical footnote: Northup’s manuscript was actually lost, until it was recovered by historian Sue Eakin.)
Today, slavery survivors are also at the forefront of the modern abolition movement. You can read interview transcripts with modern slavery survivors, and watch videos about survivors who have become anti-slavery activists, on the Free the Slaves website.
If you’re not a movie-watching type, you can download the audiobook of 12 Years a Slave, narrated by Louis Gossett Jr. Free the Slaves receives 20 percent of the proceeds from audio book downloads.
If you see the 12 Years a Slave movie, or listen to the audio book, complete the experience by making a commitment to do something. Help us finish what Solomon Northup, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln and the abolitionists of the 1800s started. Let’s actually end slavery. Finally. Forever. For everyone, everywhere.
A new estimate of global slavery calculates that 29.8 million men, women and children are enslaved worldwide.
The Global Slavery Index, released today by the Australian-based anti-trafficking group Walk Free, provides a first-of-its-kind country-by-country measure of the extent and risks of trafficking and slavery today.
“Since hidden slaves can’t be counted, it is easy to pretend they don’t exist, the Index aims to change that,” says FTS Co-founder Kevin Bales, who was the project’s lead researcher. Bales is now a professor at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull in the U.K.
The Index reveals that the countries where Free the Slaves has focused its frontline work are among the world’s worst hotspots.
India has more slaves than anywhere else, thought the numerical rankings in the Index are based on the percentage of a country’s total population in slavery.
- Haiti is ranked number two, with an estimated 209,000 slaves (total population 10.2 million).
- India is number four, with 14 million in slavery (total population 1.2 billion).
- Nepal is number five, with 259,000 slaves (total population 27.5 million).
- Ghana is number 18, with 181,000 slaves (population 25.4 million).
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo is number 23, with 462,000 slaves (total population 65.7 million).
- Brazil is number 94, with 209,000 slaves (total population 197.8 million).
The six FTS frontline countries account for 71 percent of today’s slaves, according to Index statistics.
The Index ranked 162 countries in all. The U.S. comes in at number 134, with 60,000 slaves. The world’s worst country is Mauritania. Three countries tied for best: the United Kingdom, Ireland and Iceland.
“The Global Slavery Index is a stark reminder that modern-day slavery, a heinous violation of basic human rights, remains a pervasive problem demanding urgent action,” says FTS Executive Director Maurice Middleberg. “We commend the effort to create a more integrated barometer of the magnitude, risks and responses to slavery in specific nations. The Global Slavery Index is a welcome addition to the literature on slavery. It offers useful insights and underscores the need for systematic collection of primary data on slavery’s prevalence. The Global Slavery Index should compel national leaders to focus on finding durable solutions.”
The Index comes a year after the U.N. International Labor Organization estimated global slavery prevalence at 20.9 million people. The two studies included different numbers of countries, and counted different forms of slavery, providing a range of research now estimating that 21-30 million people are in trapped in various forms of slavery today.
The Index report goes beyond a global headcount to also evaluate risk factors for slavery and the strength of governmental responses in 40 countries. Risks include a country’s human rights record, level of economic development, governmental stability and discrimination against women.
The goal, says Walk Free CEO Nick Grono, is to “shape national and global efforts to root-out modern slavery across the world.” Walk Free plans to update the Index every year.
Free the Slaves is proud to announce that Bob is back!
Our former Board Chair Robert Boneberg will assist Free the Slaves in several key areas, including:
- Legal analysis to support our frontline country offices;
- Policy advocacy on business supply-chain transparency;
- Securing support from U.S. law firms for the work of Free the Slaves.
“We appreciate Bob’s enthusiasm and willingness to take on these important tasks,” says Free the Slaves Executive Director Maurice Middleberg.
Bob is an attorney with a long history of public service. Prior to law school, Bob worked as a street gang social worker in Buffalo, NY, and as a senior legislative assistant to the Buffalo Common Council. Recently, Bob has been a litigation partner at Lowenstein Sandler LLP in New York, and he is the former chair of that firm’s pro bono committee.
Bob is a former chair of the New York State Bar Association’s International Law & Practice Section Committee on International Human Rights. He is a vice president of the Cornelia de Lange Syndrome Foundation.
Bob received his bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Geneseo, a masters in social work from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and his law degree, magna cum laude, from New York Law School.