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.
Three amazing women will be honored this year as recipients of the Fourth Annual Free the Slaves Freedom Awards. Two are former slaves who have dedicated their lives to helping others to freedom. One is a former governmental official who has shown the world how to combat slavery at a national level.
Frederick Douglass Award Winner
Timea Nagy was a TV producer in Hungary, looking to raise quick funds for a show. She answered an ad to work temporarily in Canada. But when she arrived, she learned she had been tricked. After many months as a sex slave, she escaped and founded Walk With Me, a group that rescues sex trafficking victims, provides immediate support to survivors, and trains Canadian cops to recognize and respond to sex slavery.
William Wilberforce Award Winner
Ruth Vilela was Brazil’s secretary of labor inspection, and created the world’s most innovative anti-slavery SWAT squad. The unit raids farms and sweatshops, freeing thousands of slaves each year. She also created the Dirty List, which quarantines companies where slavery is found. And she created the National Pact, prompting major companies to pledge that they will root-out slavery in their product supply chains.
Frederick Douglass Award Winner
Josefa Condori Quispe left her small village in Peru at age 9 to work as a maid in Lima. After spending most of her childhood and adolescence as a house slave, she managed to get an education and escape the life of domestic servitude. She founded the group Yanapanakusun to fight the root causes of slavery in Peru. She runs a residential shelter for young slavery survivors, providing medical treatment, education, psychological support and legal aid.
All three winners will receive assistance from Free the Slaves to support their work. They will visit the U.S. to inspire others in the anti-slavery movement. We’ll tell you more about these amazing women, and have more details about the Fourth Annual Freedom Award events later this year.