We’ve received wonderful news that one of our Nepali partners, Shakti Samuha, has just won a prestigious award for its anti-trafficking work.
It’s called the Ramon Magsaysay Award, and it is presented annually for achievements that improve lives and transform societies. It’s considered by many to be Asia’s premier prize and highest honor.
Shakti Samuha, an organization formed by sex slavery survivors, works to liberate women and girls from sexual exploitation in Kathmandu’s dance bars, restaurants and massage parlors. The Ramon Magsaysay Award committee was impressed by the dedication and leadership that Shakti Samuha has brought to the anti-slavery movement in Nepal.
“In electing Shakti Samuha to receive the 2013 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes its founders and members for transforming their lives in service to other human trafficking survivors, for their passionate dedication towards rooting out a pernicious social evil in Nepal, and the radiant example they have shown the world in reclaiming the human dignity that is the birthright of all abused women and children everywhere.”
FTS has supported Shakti Samuha for the past six years, providing intensive support to its organizational development and ability to demonstrate results.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award “is richly deserved in light of the courageous and path breaking work in which Shakti Samuha has engaged,” says FTS Executive Director Maurice Middleberg. “Free the Slaves is proud to be a partner.”
Read more about Shakti Samuha’s work on the FTS Nepal webpage.
A U.S. federal court judge has rejected efforts by three leading business associations to block new rules that require American manufacturers to disclose if their products contain slavery-tainted minerals from central Africa.
Judge Robert Wilkins of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia upheld the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) “Conflict Minerals Rule.” The rule instructs publicly-traded manufacturers to investigate and disclose if their products contain tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold from conflict zones in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and surrounding countries.
The new reporting requirement was mandated by Congress as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, and was intended to reduce the flow of resources to armed groups in Congo that control key mining sites. Free the Slaves research has shown that slavery is rampant in these mining communities.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable and National Association of Manufacturers sued the SEC to block the reporting requirement. The groups argued that the SEC failed to follow proper procedures by proving that the economic benefits of corporate disclosure outweigh the costs of compliance. The groups also claimed that requiring corporate disclosure of human rights violations in the manufacturing of products violates a company’s free-speech rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Judge Wilkins late Tuesday concluded that those claims “lacked merit.” He noted that Congress required the SEC to create the Conflict Minerals Rule.
“The decision sets an important precedent,” says Free the Slaves Programs Director Karen Stauss. “American consumers and investors will be better able to make informed choices when companies disclose if there is slavery in their products.”
Several socially-responsible investor groups have noted that corporate disclosure of human rights violations in products will be a valuable tool for weighing the risks of investing in a particular company.
A law to require widespread corporate transparency of slavery in product supply chains in expected to be re-introduced in Congress soon.
This week’s court ruling is also expected to strengthen European efforts to require similar corporate disclosure, as activists and authorities there were keeping a close eye on the U.S. case.
Here’s a question that people ask us all the time: What can I do myself, right now, to help end slavery? There’s a simple answer: host a house party to raise money for Free the Slaves.
We have a new tool kit just for that. It’s featured on our website. We give you a rundown of the simple steps you need to take to prepare for the event.
The prep guide includes: the types of parties you can have, how to budget, how to attract people to the event, a timeline of steps you will need to take, a sign up sheet and donation forms.
The kit provides all the information you need, and guides you through the process to make your party a success.
Be creative, bring people together who want to help out, have fun and don’t stress too much.
Raising funds for Free the Slaves is a chance to have fun with people who are passionate about the same things you are, while making a difference.
There are few things more fundamental in life than marriage. It is the foundation of family. It provides legal and cultural structure for society.
There is growing recognition, however, that for many women and girls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC or Congo), marriage can be slavery. It can begin through abduction and rape. It can be arranged by fathers to repay debts. These brides enter marriage against their will. They are forced to provide labor without compensation. They cannot pursue their own life goals. And they cannot escape.
A new FTS exposé, Wives in Slavery, examines the causes and impacts of forced marriage in the Congo – through the stories of women and girls who have experienced it firsthand. The case studies provide a lens into the reality of how forced marriage occurs, how it is hidden in plain view, often without being challenged, and how it adversely impacts both the wives who are enslaved as well as society at large. Researchers outline how forced marriage meets the legal definition of slavery under international conventions and DRC law, the conditions that create vulnerability to enslavement, and the physical and psychological toll that forced marriage inflicts on Congolese women.
- FORMS OF FORCED MARRIAGE: In the Congo, forced marriages typically fall into one of four classifications: marriage by rape, marriage by sale, marriage by kidnapping, and child marriage.
- DEBT: Poverty or debt within a woman’s family increases her vulnerability to forced marriage. Many cases of forced marriage are negotiated settlements that absolve a family member, often a father, of debt.
- CONFLICT: The military conflict in eastern DRC has increased the vulnerability of women to forced marriage by creating a climate where there is limited rule of law. Armed combatants ignore laws with impunity, taking women and girls from their homes.
- CHILDREN: Girls are especially vulnerable to forced marriage because they have less power due to double discrimination of being both children and female in a patriarchal society. Child marriages result in high-risk pregnancies with greater rates of both maternal and neonatal illness and death.
- JUSTICE SYSTEM: Legal revisions are needed to prevent discrimination against women and prohibit or significantly limit the use of a dowry or bride-price in marriage. Judicial strengthening is needed to support prosecution of forced marriage crimes. Increased cooperation and coordination among key players in the justice system is needed, including police, courts, local governments and civil society.
- SCHOOLS & CLINICS: Improved services in schools and health facilities are needed to ensure cases of forced marriage are identified and addressed effectively.
- COMMUNITY EDUCATION: Increased support is needed for grassroots movements that can effectively address local attitudes and practices through dialogue, education, and other communications.
- SCALE-UP SUPPORT: Increased and coordinated monitoring, evaluation, and knowledge management is needed to ensure continuous learning and the scale-up of practices that are raising awareness and reducing vulnerability to forced marriage.
Current and former slaves interviewed during this research project commonly stated that it will be necessary to change attitudes in the Congo in order to end forced marriage. Many community members, including wives in forced marriages, do not realize that the practice is illegal. Education about the right to consensual marriage, along with education on the harmful impacts of forced marriage, can help Congolese residents make forced marriage a thing of the past.
The full report is available from the Free the Slaves Congo webpage.
Mining is a key source of export income for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC or Congo). Minerals such as tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold are shipped to industrialized nations for use in electronics, jewelry, manufacturing and many other industries.
Congo’s mineral resources have the potential to help the nation’s economy expand and diversify. But at present, many Congolese people in mining zones toil in conditions of slavery, and much of the profit from mining benefits groups engaged in armed conflict.
A new Free the Slaves field investigation, called Congo’s Mining Slaves: Enslavement at South Kivu Mining Sites, is being released today.
The research was conducted to document the types, nature and scale of slavery at major mining sites in South Kivu province; to analyze the characteristics that cause Congolese workers to be vulnerable to enslavement; and to recommend solutions.
- Scope of Slavery: 866 individuals were confirmed to be in various forms of slavery in three mining communities, out of 931 individuals interviewed by researchers.
- Types of Slavery: 7 types of slavery were identified: forced labor, forced prostitution, debt slavery, worst forms of child labor, peonage, forced marriage, sexual slavery.
- Child Slavery: 23 percent of those in slavery were under 18 years of age.
- DRC Government: Enforce Congo’s anti-slavery laws; demilitarize mining sites; provide universal free primary schooling; develop social protection procedures to ensure safety of people in mining zones.
- U.S. Government: Enforce Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act and the Securities and Exchange Commission’s conflict minerals disclosure rule; exert diplomatic influence with DRC government.
- U.N. Peacekeeping Operation in Congo: Deploy peacekeepers at pilot sites for conflict-free mineral trading; prioritize monitoring and reporting of slavery in U.N Human Rights and Child Protection sections.
- Civil Society, Donor Governments, Aid Organizations: Support rights-based community development efforts, mineworker associations and alternative livelihood projects; incorporate slavery eradication into the design of humanitarian assistance programs.
- Multinational Corporations: Map product supply chains for slavery-tainted raw materials, and disclose findings; fund DRC community development efforts to reduce residents’ vulnerability to slavery.
- Consumers and Investors: Hold businesses and governments accountable for taking action.
Free the Slaves has begun implementation of community-based interventions to respond to slavery uncovered by earlier research in North Kivu province. Today’s report updates progress made so far, and recommends that similar interventions be implemented to benefit residents of South Kivu province, as well.
The survey team findings are valuable information for a wide variety of actors working to improve the status of human rights in eastern DRC, including those focused on human trafficking, “conflict minerals,” child rights, gender-based violence, and rural poverty.
The report is available for download from the FTS Congo webpage.