Free the Slaves is thrilled to introduce two dynamic individuals who have recently joined us to form our action team for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Jack Kahorha is FTS’ new DRC Coordinator, working on the frontlines. He is based in Goma in eastern DRC. Jack is experienced as a journalist, researcher, and diplomatic staffer. He is a humanitarian who speaks many languages.
Gabriel Deussom is our new DRC Program Manager, based in our headquarters in Washington. Gabriel has a Ph.D. in Political History and has extensive experience working in community development and capacity-building in Cameroon and other African countries.
We asked them about their perspectives on ending slavery in the DRC.
Q: What is your motivation for the work you’re doing?
Jack: Jack has worked as a human rights reporter for many years. He said: “in media, once a story is broadcast, it loses its value. The situation may have changed positively or not; most of the time journalists don’t come back to it. With the work I am doing with FTS in DRC, I can document a situation and advocate for it until a change intervenes.”
Gabriel: Gabriel says he is motivated by three factors: his passion for social justice; living in Cameroon, where ethnic divides are tied to historical slavery; and FTS’ unique approach to ending slavery. Gabriel was attracted to FTS because of its emphasis on “local momentum and ownership” and partnerships that are “really relevant to finding solutions.”
Q: How do you use your prior work experience in your new position at FTS?
Jack: Jack discussed how he is well known and respected because he was a spokesperson for the problems of common people. He would present their problems to the rebels and government officials for reaction, and tried to give all sides a chance to be heard. He sees his work at FTS as an extension of that mission: “This journalistic background helps me to get easy access to people at the grassroots level, as well as humanitarians and officials.”
Gabriel: Gabriel brings valuable experience in African development with him to FTS. He has 10 years of experience working in international development. He also worked for the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA) leading capacity-building efforts for civil society in 20 African nations. He has also been a consultant for a number of organizations. Gabriel emphasized his passion over experience, saying, “I have devoted my life and career to social justice.”
Q: What is one thing you want people to know about the DRC?
Jack: “I want people to know that slavery is still a reality in the DRC, and that the country’s constitution firmly forbids all forms of slavery in Article 16. However, there is no effort to end it.” Jack thinks the work FTS and its partners have done to document the existence of various forms of slavery in the DRC “is becoming a tool, a compass for Congolese authorities, to act.”
Gabriel: “I want people to hear about frontline advocates who are working to make change and engage their politicians despite the security situation and other problems.”
Q: Who is your role model in the anti-slavery movement?
Jack: John Jay was an abolitionist who tried twice to introduce laws to abolish slavery in New York, but failed. He eventually was able to sign an emancipation law as governor, thanks to the New York Society for the Promotion of the Manumission of Slaves, an organization that he created. Jack said the lessons he has learned from John Jay are that: “a dream becomes a reality thanks to one’s determination,” and failure is an opportunity to keep going and create new strategies.
Gabriel: “My heroes are the ones you don’t hear of. They are people who are voiceless. The ones who are coping with difficult situations every day.” He is also inspired by African leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu because they “help you to see the world differently and that you need to contribute to change.”
You can learn more about FTS work in the DRC on our special Congo webpage.
Katie Ford is no stranger to those in the fashion world, and is no stranger to Free the Slaves. Made famous by her family’s modeling agency, Ford Models, Katie made the transition from CEO to abolitionist after attending a U.N. human trafficking conference in 2008.
She’s featured this month in Vogue’s annual age issue, explaining her decision and how fighting slavery has changed her life.
“I could think of so many things to do to stop trafficking because of the parallels to how we brought models into the U.S.,” Katie says in the story. “I had this weird set of knowledge about immigration law, a very distinct skill set that not many people have. I thought, I’ve go to do this. It became all-consuming.”
Katie has helped Free the Slaves as a Global Ambassador. She has accompanied our staff on a trip to Ghana. It was there that she met a young slavery survivor, Abeiku, and was faced with the harsh reality of child labor in the Ghanaian fishing industry. Katie went on to help us create a PSA with Ford Models and later founded the Katie Ford Foundation, which has been instrumental in creating targeted change to bring an end to slavery in our world.
Vogue’s article on Katie, “Doing Good at 56: The Ford Factor,” features Free the Slaves partners Reporter Brasil and JEEVIKA, and the work that they’re doing on the ground. Katie’s dedication to ending modern slavery is inspiring, as it demonstrates the ways that activism can manifest itself in our lives.
As Free the Slaves Co-founder Kevin Bales describes: “Many activists are long on passion but short on strategy and organization. Katie’s got the skills of the business world combined with a sense of style.”
Be sure to pick up Vogue’s August issue and read it for yourself!
Last week, we announced the beginning of Free the Slaves’ annual 4th of July photo contest, now with the catchy new name of “Photos 4 Freedom.” These past two years, you’ve dazzled us with your creative ways of finding freedom in your daily lives. From food, to street signs, to your beautiful children, we’ve seen it all. But now, we want to see it again!
We’ve had two great submissions thus far, but we would love to see some more. To get those creative juices flowing, FTS interns took to the streets of DC to get some “free-spiration” in our nation’s capital. You don’t have to travel far; in fact, we’d love to see freedom in your own back yard. With the 4th of July just two days away, don’t forget to bring your camera to snap some Photos 4 Freedom this holiday!
Editor’s note: FTS South Asia Director Supriya Awasthi briefed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this month during Clinton’s trip to India. We thought you would enjoy Supriya’s reflections on her experience.
It is not easy to get an invitation to meet the U.S. Secretary of State. And for me, it was not an easy invitation to keep.
Let’s start from the beginning.
I was in a remote village when the call came. It was a Friday. I learned that Hillary Clinton would welcome my views on Indian slavery when she would visit Kolkata. The problem: Secretary Clinton would be in Kolkata on Sunday. I had less then 48 hours, and a long journey ahead.
There was no chance to get home. I had to immediately hop onto an overnight train, and there were no seats. But it was the only way to get to Kolkata in time. So, I sat in the passageway beside the lavatory for 12 hours. Fortunately, my colleague Rajneesh Yadav from our partner group MSEMVS was able to join me, and we kept one another company on the floor of the train.
Once in Kolkata, I had to dash out for respectable clothes. I arrived at the Indian Council for Cultural Relations just in time to greet Ms. Clinton’s entourage.
Her visit lasted only an hour, but it was a valuable hour. Eight organizations, including Free the Slaves, briefed Secretary Clinton. She asked if the situation was improving in India, and what she could do to create more awareness about slavery.
I let her know that the approach taken by Free the Slaves and our frontline partners is working, because it helps empower those in slavery to resist and overcome slavery through community action. That point seemed to hit home with her. After all, one of her books is titled “It Takes a Village.”
I thanked Secretary Clinton for her diplomacy with Indian officials. It has had an effect. Some state governments are implementing action plans.
Ms. Clinton left the meeting saying she would be our “cheerleader.” She went on: “Let me see how I can get you more attention.” One newspaper summed up her visit to Kolkata in four words: “Trafficking Tops Hillary Agenda.”
I left the meeting exhausted, but excited and inspired.
You may already have seen some of Lisa Kristine’s captivating photographs that feature work of Free the Slaves around the world. Now, you can see Lisa talk about her experiences capturing the reality of slavery in mine shafts, brick kilns and makeshift brothels.
Lisa’s recent TedX presentation is available online. She spoke in January in Hawaii.
Lisa’s collection of images is available in an inspiring book, Slavery. It’s available directly from Lisa’s gallery. Proceeds benefit Free the Slaves.