There’s a risk that the bill authorizing U.S. anti-slavery programs will soon die amid Washington gridlock. That’s not because slavery is a partisan issue. It’s because abolitionists haven’t convinced Congress that fighting slavery is something Americans care deeply about. We have to get the U.S. Senate’s attention.
Please mark your calendar to take 10 minutes on Tuesday September 4th to contact your U.S. senators. There’s a good chance that the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, known as TVPRA or S. 1301, can win Senate approval. But we must let our U.S. senators know that it’s a priority.
The window for action is very small. So the entire anti-slavery movement is mobilizing next Tuesday, right after the Labor Day holiday, to let the Senate know we’re watching. Calling your senators is the most important political act you can take this year, except for voting.
Please go to this special website to get contact information for your U.S. senators, and to download talking points about what to say when you call: www.passTVPRAnow.org.
The TVPRA was originally passed in 2000 and must be renewed every three years. The law authorizes authorities to raid brothels and sweatshops, freeing slaves and prosecuting traffickers. It enables rescue shelters and rehabilitation programs to operate, inside the U.S. and overseas. The TVPRA helps Free the Slaves conduct programs that you support in India and Haiti.
In the past, reauthorization has been a bipartisan effort bringing lawmakers together, even in polarized times. That’s still true today. But with the end of the congressional session fast approaching, there’s a risk this vital law will be overlooked for the first time since it was initially enacted.
You can ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in combating slavery and trafficking. Please act on Tuesday September 4th to get the Senate’s attention. And please spread the word to others.
It’s back to school soon for students in Free the Slaves student chapters. We’ve been receiving dispatches from student chapter members about how they are confronting and combating slavery even during their summer vacations. Here are thee stories that we thought you’d like to see. You can learn more about FTS student chapters on our website.
Amy Brinkley | Southeast Missouri State University
Nine months before arriving in Africa for the first time, we, the Southeast Missouri State University campus chapter of Free the Slaves, were preparing for our first year as a student group. We were a charter group fronted by a small, yet committed group of freshmen and sophomore students. I was the faculty sponsor, and I was incredibly motivated because I had just returned from Ghana where I spent the summer working alongside the staff and students at Challenging Heights, an FTS partner organization that rescues and rehabilitates children who have been trafficked into child slavery.
As our kick-off event to get our name and cause heard around campus, we arranged for James Kofi Annan, founder of Challenging Heights and former child slave, to be a speaker on campus. Moved by his story and the turnout that evening, I asked the executive board if we would be interested in taking a trip to Ghana to be a part of the remarkable work Challenging Heights is pioneering. All of the students agreed that it would be a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience, and the planning and fundraising began.
I think young adults feel that experiences like this are far out of their reach. The truth is – they are not! The students found an inner compassion and committed themselves to going, and that’s what it takes – commitment and compassion. And the truth is that while it is an adventure to see the world and experience other cultures, I think experiences like this help anyone to see that the world is filled with people just living their lives the best they know how and even surviving in circumstances that would best most of us.
One of the most remarkable moments on the five-week trip was when we travelled up to Lake Volta. While we were living at the shelter where the children were brought after they were rescued and had constant interaction with the children there, we just couldn’t picture that these kids were once up on the lake doing what they told us they were doing.
They were only children, small children, and we just couldn’t place them on the lake in the boats. After a 17-hour drive to Lake Volta, once we were on the lake it all came full circle. The enormous lake was dotted with small boats filled with children whose muscled physiques didn’t fit their childish bodies. I think we were all just stunned at first.
We stayed in Ghana for five weeks and have since returned and are gearing up for our second year as a campus group. This time around, we are armed with a purpose that has a face. For this group, it is no longer about a huge global issue called “slavery,” for now we see the faces and the names of those who bear the scars of this atrocious injustice.
Elizabeth Chin | University High School | Irvine, California
I founded a Free the Slaves chapter at my high school two years ago after watching a life-changing documentary about human trafficking. This summer, I wanted to change government policy to protect victims of human trafficking in California, and to join the “targeted change” mission for Free the Slaves.
I found that Proposition 35 – Stop Human Trafficking in California – will be on the ballot this November. Prop. 35 will increase prison terms for human traffickers and protections for victims. When researching human trafficking in California, I was bombarded with awful facts of human trafficking in my home state: the average age minors enter into the sex trafficking industry is just twelve to fourteen years old, and three of the 13 high-intensity child sex trafficking areas in the United States are cities in California!
After volunteering for several Prop. 35 outreach events, I was asked to join the team as an intern, gathering endorsements and support from government officials, organizations, and the community as we gear up for elections in November.
I am now proud to say that I am taking a stand against human trafficking in California. I AM THE CHANGE.
Danielle Melfi | Loyola University Maryland
Anna Hall | Grinnell College
For 10 weeks this summer, two college chapter leaders joined Free the Slaves in the Washington, D.C. headquarters to apply what they’ve learned about anti-slavery work on their campuses to the broader anti-trafficking movement. Through trips to Capitol Hill and the State Department, conferences with top anti-trafficking activists, and day-to-day interactions with Free the Slaves staff, Danielle and Anna expanded their knowledge of the organization, nonprofit work, and the anti-trafficking community.
Anna: I have spent the summer as a research intern for Free the Slaves. In that position, I’ve spent most of my time gathering information on the status of women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for an upcoming Free the Slaves report. I’ve also written for the Free the Slaves blog and helped initiate an archiving system for Free the Slaves research projects. Through these activities, as well as in-depth conversations with other anti-slavery activists, I have come away with a deeper understanding of and respect for the great passion and dedication exhibited by every individual and organization that has made it their life’s work to end modern day slavery.
Danielle: As a development intern, I spent my summer alongside Free the Slaves staff learning how grassroots activism operates on a broader level. I’ve been able to apply what I learned at Loyola Maryland to support Free the Slaves fundraising and advocacy efforts — working with donors, student activists, and the communications team. Through this role, I have had the opportunity to connect Free the Slaves’ frontline work to their stateside supporters, sharing stories of liberation and hope. You can learn more about my work this summer by following my blog with mtvU’s Against Our Will Campaign- a big thank you to them for this incredible opportunity!
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) yesterday approved a new rule that requires companies to investigate their supply chains and disclose if their products contain minerals from conflict areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) or surrounding areas.
If their products do contain conflict minerals, companies have to report what they’re doing to ensure the profits don’t go to abusive armed groups in eastern Congo.
It’s a watershed moment for the corporate transparency and anti-slavery movements. So-called “conflict minerals” from Congo not only fuel one of history’s deadliest wars. Free the Slaves research has documented that rebel groups and army commanders force Congo residents into slavery at many mining sites.
Congress directed the SEC to develop the new rule as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Four minerals are targeted for corporate disclosure: tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold. All are commonly used to manufacture electronic devices – from cell phones and televisions to computers and high-tech components.
“It’s an historic day, both for Congo and for the movement toward responsible investment at large,” says FTS Programs Director Karen Stauss. “The issuing of the rule will renew the momentum for change on the ground by the DRC mining ministry, local warlords, Congolese civil society and U.N. peacekeepers.”
“At the same time, the finalizing of the rule affirms that the presence of horrific human rights abuses deep within corporate supply chains is and should be a matter of concern to investors – and that affects companies’ bottom lines,” Karen added.
Companies must submit their first annual report to the SEC in May of 2014. You can watch the SEC meeting where the new rule was adopted here.
The SEC rule isn’t as strong as many advocates in the human rights movement would like. For example, there’s a multi-year phase-in period where companies could say they can’t determine if the minerals they use are Congo conflict-free.
But the new regulation is an important step. The anti-slavery movement and socially responsible investor groups support a bill in Congress for companies to investigate their supply chains for all forms of slavery, not just Congo conflict minerals.
The SEC’s new rule creates a precedent for progress.
You can learn more about the impact of Congo slavery, and your connection to it as a consumer, in our short mini-documentary: Slavery in Your Pocket.
This could become an important day in the history of the modern abolition movement. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is set to vote on new rules to require companies to investigate their supply chains and disclose if their products contain minerals from conflict areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) or surrounding areas.
It could mark a milestone in corporate supply chain transparency. That’s because so-called “conflict minerals” from Congo are often mined by slaves. Free the Slaves has conducted groundbreaking research to document the Congo connection to slavery.
Attention policy wonks: today’s SEC meeting will be streamed live beginning at 10 a.m. EST.
It’s unclear just how stringent the new rules may be, and how quickly they might take effect. Free the Slaves and our colleagues in the human rights movement will be evaluating the SEC decision after it is announced.
It’s important to remember that today’s SEC vote is just a first step in ensuring that all products sold by American companies are slavery-free. Corporate transparency on conflict minerals from Congo can address slavery in electronic products. That’s because the minerals involved – tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold – are commonly used in electronic devices.
But there are many other common products, from clothing to chocolate to cars and beyond—that are often made with slavery-tainted raw materials. Efforts will continue in Congress for a comprehensive solution that builds on the progress made with Congo conflict minerals.
If you work for the U.S. government, you probably know what the letters CFC mean. It’s the Combined Federal Campaign, and it allows federal employees to donate to nonprofit groups automatically each month.
We’re happy to report that Free the Slaves has once again qualified for CFC contributions. Our CFC number is 11482. Federal employees have until the end of 2012 to determine their monthly charitable contributions for 2013.
Recurring donations, no matter how large or small, are vital so FTS can budget for ongoing frontline work in India, Nepal, Ghana, Congo, Brazil and Haiti.
As you might imagine, cash flow is essential to a nonprofit organization. We can’t spend what we don’t have. That’s why a base of recurring donations is important. It sustains momentum, so we can help those in slavery to escape and assist the vulnerable to resist enslavement in the first place.
Thanks to the many federal employees who already contribute to Free the Slaves—please spread the word that our CFC number is 11482.