First Lady Elanor Roosevelt holds the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights

U.S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt holds the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

If you’ve never had a chance to read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, today is a good time to do it.

December 10th is Human Rights Day, a date proclaimed by the U.N. in 1950 to focus global attention on the declaration as “the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.”

The declaration, approved in 1948, is very clear about slavery and trafficking. Abolishing both is near the top of the list.

Article 4 states: “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”

Of course, declaring that slavery should be abolished and actually ending it are two different things. Current research estimates that 21-30 million people are still enslaved around the globe.

As this year’s Human Rights Day unfolds, you can do your part by spreading the word that slavery still exists. Tell your coworkers, classmates, neighbors, family members and friends.

Equally important: tell them that slavery can be overcome if we all act together. Reduce consumer demand for products manufactured by slaves or made with slavery-tainted components or raw materials. Check out KnowTheChain to see what major companies are doing about slavery in product supply chains.

And help Free the Slaves work on the supply side of the problem, too. We help stem the flow of vulnerable people into systems of slavery in trafficking hot spots.

It’s Human Rights Day. Get smart about slavery. Then get active to bring it to an end.

nelson mandela

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013 | Photo: Office of the Presidency of South Africa

Our thoughts are with the people of South Africa, who’ve lost the man who led their nation from one of history’s most notorious forms of oppression.

Nelson Mandela’s triumph over apartheid is a beacon of hope to those who still yearn for freedom and dignity around the globe.

Mandela’s most enduring reference to slavery came in a 2005 speech to more than 20,000 Londoners gathered in iconic Trafalgar Square.

“Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings,” Mandela said.

Although his speech focused on poverty, Mandela’s reference to slavery as a man-made evil that can be overcome are words of inspiration for those working to eradicate human trafficking worldwide.

Mandela’s long walk to freedom helped transform a nation and end a dark chapter in history. But as Mandela himself noted in his London speech, the journey isn’t over.

“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest,” Mandela said.

The team from Stillmotion has wrapped-up filming for their new documentary, #standwithme. The film’s preview is now available online. You can also sign up now to attend premiere screenings of the film in 30 U.S. cities coast to coast early next year!

This feature-length film chronicles how artistry and activism can build bridges to freedom for millions trapped in slavery around the world. It tells the story of Lisa Kristine’s heart-stopping photographs of slavery hot spots where Free the Slaves works. (Purchase Lisa’s prints and book here – proceeds benefit Free the Slaves.)

A California family saw Lisa’s slavery photos in her gallery – and decided to snap into action. Vivienne Harr raised thousands of dollars for the anti-slavery movement by selling lemonade. Her family has started bottling the recipe and is selling it online and in small grocery stores. Free the Slaves is one of several organizations that will benefit from Make A Stand Lemon-Aid sales.

Maurice with CCPC

Stillmotion crew videotapes FTS Executive Director Maurice Middleberg meeting with a village community child protection committee in Ghana | FTS Photo/ Gillmore

Filming for #standwithme concluded three weeks ago, as the Stillmotion team followed FTS Executive Director Maurice Middleberg to visit our anti-slavery work in Ghana.

The filmmakers documented the brutal conditions that children endure in fishing slavery on Lake Volta.

The film crew also photographed how the innovative techniques used by FTS and our front line partner organization Challenging Heights help reduce and prevent child slavery.

Watch the trailer, sign up to see the movie, and take a stand to end slavery.

There is a common myth about the nature of anti-slavery work: that it’s terribly depressing. Actually, fighting slavery is the most joyful experience that you can imagine.

Nothing compares to the joy I’ve seen on the faces of families freed from generations of debt bondage slavery in Asia, or the smiling faces of children I’ve met who have been rescued from fishing slavery in Africa.

I would like to share with you our newest video, which features these “Faces of Freedom.” Without contributions from supporters like you, these faces would be telling a very different story.

In Faces of Freedom, you will see the many things that freedom brings: exultation, triumph, hope, optimism and relief. You will see the faces of slavery survivors, whose strength knows no bounds, as well as the faces of people who’ve avoided enslavement thanks to the frontline work of Free the Slaves. They will pass this freedom on to future generations.

During this holiday season, I hope you will consider giving the gift of freedom, so even more people will know the happiness that freedom brings.

We at Free the Slaves wish you happy holidays, and thank you for helping us spread joy in the world.


Rescued child slaves display their compensation checks | MSEMVS photo

For former slaves in India, the government’s provision of Rs.20,000 (approximately $333) makes a crucial difference for protecting themselves and their families from being re-enslaved. With these funds, they can buy some land, or livestock, or start up a small shop. It’s clear in the law that every individual officially released from bonded labor should get this help, but sometimes it takes dedicated long-term commitment and pressure to make it happen.

After a four-year struggle, 70 former child slaves rescued from embroidery factories in Delhi were finally able to hold their payment checks in their hands and truly believe that a different future could also be within their grasp.

When FTS partner, MSEMVS took responsibility for assisting the returned children, they formed community vigilance committees (CVC) in their villages to prevent traffickers from taking them off again, and to start changing the underlying reasons why they had been trafficked in the first place. Working with the CVCs, they got these children enrolled in school and made sure authorities provided school uniforms. Importantly, they ensured that these children (and others attending the schools) were receiving the required midday meals. MSEMVS arranged for the adults in their families to also get paid for work under the government’s Employment Guarantee program, and that the families registered for food rations and housing.

But still there was no sign of the essential Rs.20,000 payment. The CVC members and staff trekked time and time again to submit the applications and to try to get the central and local governments to work together to issue this support. Finally, tired of this negligence, many CVCs joined forces to hold a nonviolent one-day sit-down fast outside the district magistrate’s office. It caught the local media’s attention and the pressure began to build.

MSEMVS decided to bring in reinforcement. They filed a case against the local government with the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, the national body charged with ensuring that officials protect children at risk. Provided with all the evidence, the commission began to follow-up the case each month, with MSEMVS keeping them informed about whether they could see any progress.

Finally, the district magistrate ensured that the payments were made. The checks were handed over on October 2nd, the anniversary of the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi.

Learn more about FTS frontline work on our website’s India page.