FTS Holiday e-card

When you donate to Free the Slaves to honor a friend, colleague or family member, you can send them a "TRIUMPH" e-Card to let them know that the gift is spreading freedom.

There’s a word that you don’t often hear at this time of year. But it’s a word that embodies how your concern for others is changing lives around the world. That word is TRIUMPH.

When families in slavery break free and step into lives of fulfillment, it’s a TRIUMPH over the forces of bondage.

When women in slavery regain control of their destiny and return to lives of dignity, it’s a TRIUMPH over oppression.

And when children in slavery are freed, and they begin to study and play and smile once again, it’s a TRIUMPH for all of humanity.

Your contributions to Free the Slaves help make these triumphs possible. We hope you’ll continue your support with a holiday or year-end donation, in your name or in honor of a friend, colleague or relative. Click TRIUMPH to contribute.

Free the Slaves works with frontline activists in 600 hot spot communities where modern slavery continues to thrive. We liberate slaves, ensure they remain free, and change the social, economic and political dynamics that allow slavery to persist. We have completely wiped out slavery in many villages. Click TRIUMPH to help us spread freedom to others.

We couldn’t do it without you. You help empower people in slavery to restore purpose and stability to their families and communities. In freedom, happiness becomes possible.

Thank you for your ongoing support. Together, we will TRIUMPH over slavery.

Jason & Kevin backstage in Myanmar

Jason & Kevin backstage in Myanmar

If you’ve ever wondered how far FTS co-founder Kevin Bales will go to end slavery, Sunday’s anti-trafficking concert in Myanmar will tell you.

He’ll give the shirt off his back to spread the word that SLAVERY SUCKS.

That’s literally what Kevin did for Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jason Mraz, who was ready to perform a first-of-its-kind anti-slavery concern in Myanmar at the Schwedagon Pagoda on Sunday.

In Kevin’s estimation, Jason lacked the proper wardrobe.

Jason describes the experience this week in his online journal:

Moments before taking the stage I ran into Kevin Bales, an economist and hero of mine, whose TED talk introduced modern-day slavery to the social network. I consider Kevin one of the leaders of the ongoing anti-slavery and sustainable-freedom movement and it was seeing him backstage, a long way from California, that I began to experience the important significance of the event. This is a global crisis, and our concert was continuing to bring it into light.

Kevin was wearing a black “slavery sucks” t-shirt and he insisted I wear it during my set. It was already damp and odorous with his sweat from the day’s scorching heat, but I didn’t flinch when he gave it to me. I was honored. He literally took the shirt off his back for me.

Jason performed in SLAVERY SUCKS attire. And the concert was a terrific success. MTV covered it online, and plans to broadcast it next year.

For Jason, it was a profound experience. He writes:

Here were 50 thousand attentive people, observing, raising their hands in the air, shouting freedom! They did everything I invited them to do; dance, play and participate…Still, I never turned my attention away from the real issue. I was there as a messenger, helping to spread peace, prevention tools, and protection from the horrors of human trafficking…Anyone can rise to fame and fill an arena. Anyone can go on tour and impress audiences with their unique sound, catchy lyrics or beautiful voice. It happens every season on the latest re-invent of Star Search. But very few get the opportunity to be a first international artist to sing with tens of thousands in a movement to bring an end to human trafficking. I got to do that here in Myanmar. And it was awesome.

You can read more about Jason’s inner journey in Myanmar in his online journal.

Slavery in this Week’s News

We see slavery and trafficking stories throughout the world each week. It’s great news that journalists and bloggers are exposing the problem of slavery, and examining solutions to it. Awareness creates momentum for change. Here are 10 top stories that caught our eye:

1. Forbes. “Sweatshop: Exploiting Child Labor On The iPad.” http://www.forbes.com/sites/danielnyegriffiths/2012/12/11/sweatshop-littleloud-ipad/

2. The Times of India. “Experts recommend ways to check child labour in country.” http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-12-11/allahabad/35748980_1_child-labour-child-rights-rajiv-gandhi-chair

3. The Examiner. “Senator Coons urges passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.” http://www.examiner.com/article/senator-coons-urges-passage-of-the-trafficking-victims-protect-act

4. Trust Law. “Hundreds of thousands at risk of slavery in USA – former victim.” http://www.trust.org/trustlaw/news/hundreds-of-thousands-at-risk-of-slavery-in-usa-former-victim/

5. UNODC. “Webinar panellists call for partnerships in efforts to combat trafficking globally.” http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/2012/webinar-panellists-call-for-partnerships-in-efforts-to-combat-trafficking-globally.html

6. BBC News. “Argentina sees protests after Marita Veron verdict.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-20705751

7. All Africa. “Congo-Kinshasa: DRC Govt, M23 in Closed-Door Talks.” http://allafrica.com/stories/201212140101.html

8. Press TV. “About one million people displaced by fighting in E Congo: UN official.” http://www.presstv.com/detail/2012/12/13/277905/914000-people-displaced-in-e-congo/

9. The Seattle Times. “Editorial: Backpage.com settlement doesn’t end sex-trafficking fight.” http://seattletimes.com/html/editorials/2019857384_editbackpagesettlementxml.html

10. The Washington Times. “Workers abused by immune diplomats.” http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/dec/13/workers-abused-by-immune-diplomats/

Jason Mraz at Freedom Rocks

Jason Mraz at FTS Freedom Rocks concert 2010 | Amy Graves photo for FTS

Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jason Mraz will headline a free outdoor concert in Myanmar this weekend to raise awareness about modern-day slavery and trafficking.

His performance at the base of the Shwedagon pagoda in People’s Square in Yangon is believed to be the first international concert of its kind in Myanmar, according to the Associated Press (AP).

He tells the AP that he has three goals: “educate, empower, engage.”

Jason has been a global ambassador for the modern abolition movement ever since he accompanied Free the Slaves frontline activists in Ghana on a child-slavery rescue mission.

His tearful account of meeting child slavery survivors was captured in the FTS video “The Journey of the Freedom Song.”

“I thought this (slavery) was something that was abolished when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation,” Jason recently told the AP. “But all it did is become hidden from our view. So I signed on, lent my voice, lent my music to the cause.”

Jason performed the “Freedom Song” at the 2010 FTS Freedom Awards in Los Angeles, backed up by energetic singers from the Agape Youth Choir.

Jason hosted a major anti-slavery concert in the Philippines last year, and now he is bringing his unique spirit of optimism to Myanmar, listed by the U.S. State Department as a Tier 3 country in the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report, meaning it is one of the world worst hotspots for slavery.

“I’m going there with an enormous amount of gratitude and respect, and I hope we can actually make a difference,” Jason told the AP. “I hope it’s also a testament to the songs. I’ve always wanted my songs to be about healing and self-empowerment.”

Sunday’s Myanmar concert is being organized by MTV, and it will be broadcast internationally next year. It’s funded by the Australian Government’s Agency for International Development (AusAID), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Walk Free, a global movement to end modern-day slavery; and produced in partnership with the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, the United Nations Inter-Agency Project Against Human Trafficking (UNIAP) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

FTS co-founder Kevin Bales is in Myanmar now for the show. Watch the FTS blog for his notes on how things went!

A roadmap to strengthen America’s efforts to combat modern slavery was delivered to the White House today. It’s called “The Path to Freedom.”

It’s filled with dozens of specific recommendations for the Obama administration’s second term. The report was prepared by the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST) a coalition of leading anti-slavery groups, including Free the Slaves.

“The U.S. has been a global leader in fighting trafficking, but the number of people in slavery worldwide is the highest it’s ever been,” says FTS programs director Karen Stauss.

“What’s needed is a truly historic effort to end slavery once and for all,” she says. “The ‘Path to Freedom‘ lays out how the Obama administration can shape history by turning the tide on slavery in the next four years.”

In September, the president pledged during a speech at the Clinton Global Initiative to step-up anti-trafficking efforts. He issued an executive order to prevent trafficking by federal contractors, he promised to expand services for victims, and he committed to developing a long-term plan to combat trafficking.

ATEST’s “Path to Freedom” provides comprehensive, detailed steps that Obama can take to deliver on his pledge. These include:

  1. Begin immediately to work with Republicans and Democrats in Congress to reauthorize the lapsed Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), which provides critical resources and new tools in the fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
  2. Develop a National Action Plan based on a “whole of government approach” that coordinates all available resources and tools instead of providing piecemeal solutions.
  3. Back up its commitment to fighting human trafficking and modern-day slavery with a Fiscal Year 2014 budget request that fully funds critical initiatives.
  4. Partner with willing countries to create innovative, focused and comprehensive approaches to combat human trafficking, forced labor, and other forms of modern-day slavery around the world.

“We hope they’ll answer the call. We’re ready to help,” Stauss says. “An important recommendation we’ve made, especially in the current economic climate, is that funds we are already spending on international development be leveraged to fight slavery and poverty at the same time — many of the same countries are highly vulnerable to both.”

Today’s release of “The Path to Freedom” comes as ATEST unveils its new website, filled with resources to guide policy makers. Check it out:

The new ATEST website is live today.