FTS Associate Programs Director Ginny Baumann has never been one for the limelight. But she has always deserved it.
She helped create Free the Slaves back in 2000 – a true co-founder. And over the past 13 years, Ginny has been the principal architect of the Free the Slaves community-oriented model for change.
Ginny helped FTS build partnerships with local groups in key slavery hotspots. These groups then fanned out to impoverished and marginalized communities where slavery thrives, to educate slaves about their rights and organize them to break free.
“Every single person who has passed through Free the Slaves, whether as a staff member or intern, a donor, or staff at our grassroots partner organizations, has been touched by Ginny’s thinking, whether they know it or not — and most of them know it!” says FTS Director of Programs Karen Stauss. “Her philosophy of prioritizing the empowerment of survivors and communities at risk, rather than relying on traditional power structures to create change, has infused the organization’s approach from day one.”
Thousands have moved from slavery to freedom because of Ginny’s strategic insight and her skills as an organizational taskmaster. FTS South Asia Director Supriya Awasthi remembers the early days.
“Ten years ago, the state of Bihar looked like ‘no man’s land,’” Supriya recalls. “Ginny and I began there. We had no money, but we were dreaming big. We had passion to start from scratch, to find out why children, women, men were disappearing from their villages – how were they being trafficked and to where. Now, people in many villages are preventing trafficking in their communities, putting an end to slavery.”
“Ginny, you have always been truth, reason and inspiration for us to end slavery and spread freedom,” says activist Rajneesh Kumar Yadev of the FTS front line partner organization MSEMVS in India. “We will miss you in this journey for freedom!”
You can see Ginny’s mark on the anti-slavery movement in a new video from FTS – where she personally explains from India how community organizing led to a police raid that freed 24 teenage boys from slavery in a cookie factory.
And you can read how Ginny has been working tirelessly to get other human rights and international development professionals to recognize slavery and combat it, in her excellent article in Interaction’s Monthly Developments magazine.
Today is Ginny’s final day as a full-time staffer with FTS. But this isn’t Ginny’s final day as an abolitionist. She’ll be helping FTS and other organizations as a consultant, from her home base in the U.K.
“We are grateful for Ginny’s many years of dedicated service and her extraordinary contributions to fighting slavery across the globe,” says FTS Executive Director Maurice Middleberg.
We asked Ginny what her favorite moment has been over the past 13 years. Here’s the first thing she said: “I think that when the people of Rajgarh made their decision to walk away from the slaveholders was pretty intense (summer 2009). Being there when people decide to get free is about as good as it gets.”
Ginny completed her final staff visit a few weeks ago to villages that she has helped in partnership with MSEMVS. She wrote these notes in her field journal:
“Surrounded by these people whose resilience is so astonishing, it was obvious to me, as I go on to other work in the anti-slavery movement, that slavery will be ended. I couldn’t imagine a better end to my time in the field with FTS. But then there was just one more place MSEMVS wanted to take us to. Not 10 minutes away in our car, they showed us a village where everyone was still deep in fear and only able to meet us quickly and in secret. Here the anxiety and desperation on people’s faces spoke even more clearly than what they were saying about the violence and coercion of their lives. For the last few weeks, MSEMVS had been running an open-air classroom for the children, some of whom had been physically attacked when they tried to attend the village school. The blackboard, three rows of children, and the one teacher, who looked frankly nervous, are a precursor to the transitional school that will be set up here. Even with strangers turning up, some of the children barely stopped to give us a glance as they worked on the math questions on the board. For them, perhaps education seems like a way out of slavery, and the makeshift classroom is a first sign that freedom can be possible.”
All of us at FTS wish to express our heartfelt thanks to Ginny.
“On a personal note,” says Karen Stauss, “her kindness, her patience, her superlative integrity and diligence, and her constant willingness to educate and encourage budding as well as seasoned activists and supporters has made her a real treasure to her colleagues. While I will miss having her here daily, it makes me happy to know that her work in the anti-slavery movement will continue to change the world.”
Here’s how Supriya Awasthi sums it up: “You may not remember the time you let me go first. Or the time you dropped back to tell me it wasn’t that far to go, when I used to be in despair. Or the time you helped me at the crossroads. You may not remember any of those, but I do. And this is what I have to say to you: Today, no matter what it takes, we will still walk together to make the world slavery free.”
I’d like to introduce you to five of the most passionate people I know. They are the Free the Slaves country directors – our key front line activists. They supervise our organization’s fieldwork in the world’s worst slavery hotspots.
Why do these courageous staffers risk their safety to confront slavery in the remote, impoverished communities where traffickers prey? One word: freedom. They believe everyone has a right to it. Period.
Their passion for freedom is the focus of our newest Free the Slaves video. It features extraordinary photography, and stories that come from the heart.
As the year begins to draw to a close, it’s natural to reflect on the people and events for which we’re grateful. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with our talented, resourceful and dedicated country directors. They are on the ground every day, helping to free slaves, support survivors and prevent slavery – working with local activists, government officials and law enforcement officers to eradicate trafficking. Without them, Free the Slaves could not achieve what it does. They are bringing an end to slavery.
I am also grateful for supporters like you, who generously donate time and funds to ensure that our country teams can operate. Your ongoing contributions help ensure that no person is left in bondage.
I am constantly amazed by the strength and infectious optimism of our country directors, and I know you will be too. Please watch their video. Then, if you haven’t already renewed your contribution for 2013, please take a moment to do so. You can donate directly from our YouTube channel page.
As Ghana Country Director Joha Braimah says: “I believe slavery can be ended in my lifetime, and in most people’s lifetime, if only we put our mind to it and commit to this cause.”
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.
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.
Free the Slaves is excited to welcome three new members to our senior management team. Lori Fitzmaurice, Fatou Toure and Sujata Bijou each bring fresh, insightful perspectives to the organization. We asked each of them to tell us a bit about their background, and the reason they’ve decided to join the fight against trafficking and slavery.
Lori Fitzmaurice | Director of Development
“My first encounter with human rights was as a child working with my family in the California movement for farmworker rights in the 70s. Since that time, I have been driven to stand beside those who are not heard. I am honored to be part of Free the Slaves, an organization I long admired and wished to be part of. I believe deeply that our model can end slavery worldwide. Every day, I will do my small part to make that happen by bringing sustainable resources for our programs to flourish.”
Lori began her work in the private sector, working for 11 years as a branch manager and senior director at Charles Schwab & Co., in California and Massachusetts. She then turned to the nonprofit world, working in children’s grief support in New England, and in education and conservation at the San Francisco Zoo. Most recently, Lori was the COO for Girls For A Change, a national nonprofit that provides training and empowerment in social change for middle and high school girls living in low-income neighborhoods. She is a dedicated activist for human rights, especially those of women and girls, and believes slavery can end with community-based solutions.
When asked about a quote that shapes her personal philosophy, Lori said: “Dame Anita Roddick said, ‘If you think you are too small to make an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.’ I find that quote a wonderful reminder of how social change really happens – one person at a time.”
Fatou Toure | Director of Finance and Administration
“I made up my mind to no longer work for private companies, where there isn’t a balance between work and life. Coming from a developing country, I’ve seen that nonprofit organizations help meet the needs of disadvantaged people, especially in places where local and national governments are corrupted or aren’t paying enough attention. So, Free the Slaves has a noble and rare mission. I am glad to be able to contribute in as many ways as possible.”
Fatou was raised in Senegal, and moved to the U.S. 20 years ago when her mother accepted a job with Sisters Cities International in Memphis, TN. At the time, the sister city for Memphis was Kaolack, which is where Fatou was born. Fatou attended college in Memphis and moved to Washington for graduate studies. She holds a bachelor’s in business administration and an MBA with a concentration in corporate finance. After college, Fatou worked for nonprofit organizations and private companies, where she successfully led and trained finance teams.
When asked about a quote that shapes her personal philosophy, Fatou looked to Confucius: “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential are the keys to unlock the door to personal excellence.”
Sujata Bijou | Director of Monitoring and Evaluation
“I decided to join FTS because of my passion and dedication for social justice, having had personal contact in the past with slaves. The positive culture of Free the Slaves shined through all of its communications with me, and attracted me to the challenge of monitoring and evaluating the success of anti-slavery programs.”
Sujata’s previous positions include research, monitoring and evaluation roles at the International Training and Education Center for Health at the University of Washington; the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University; the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the University of Michigan; and the Haitian Health Foundation. Sujata was a Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar. She has a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan and a master’s in public health from Tulane University. Sujata speaks English, French, Gujarati, Haitian Creole, and Malagasy.
When asked about a quote that shapes her personal philosophy, Sujata said: “Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.’”
Lori, Fatou and Sujata are all based in our Washington headquarters.