James in Stockholm

James signs autographs in Stockholm after receiving the 2013 World’s Children’s Prize

FTS is proud to share the news that slavery survivor and Ghanaian frontline anti-slavery activist James Kofi Annan has been awarded the 2013 World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child.

The prize is determined by children who vote for one of three nominees. More than 2.2 million kids cast ballots from around the world this year, with James receiving a majority of the vote.

The announcement came yesterday at a Children’s Press Conference held in several countries on the same day. James was in Stockholm to hear that he had won.

James was sold into slavery at age 6, and was forced into dangerous work on fishing boats in Ghana for seven years. He finally taught himself to read and got a college education. Now — with a rescue boat, recovery shelter and school — James does for others what he wished someone had done for him. He helps enslaved children restart their lives.

“By rescuing others, I feel I’m rescuing myself,” James says about his work. I feel that I’m correcting the injustice that was done when I was young.”

James was recognized by the World’s Children’s Prize Foundation as a Child Rights Hero, and nominated for the prize this past March, along with two other candidates. All three heroes receive prize money to further their work.

Congratulations, James!

FTS Executive Director Maurice Middleberg is interviewed for the film Stand With Me.

What do you get when you combine the world-class photography of Lisa Kristine, the innovative frontline anti-slavery projects of Free the Slaves, and a vivacious 9-year-old California girl who has decided she wants to help end child slavery?

You get a powerful feature-length documentary to spread the message that slavery still exists but can be overcome.

The film is called “#standwithme.” It chronicles how artistry and activism can build bridges to freedom for millions trapped in slavery around the world. The film is currently being shot by Portland, Oregon-based Stillmotion, and it’s expected to be released in 2014.

It will tell the story of Lisa Kristine’s heart-stopping photographs of slavery hotspots where Free the Slaves works. (Purchase Lisa’s prints and book here – proceeds benefit Free the Slaves.)

A California family saw Lisa’s slavery photos in her gallery – and decided to snap into action. Vivienne Harr raised thousands of dollars for the anti-slavery movement by selling lemonade. Her family has started bottling the recipe and selling it online and in small grocery stores.  Free the Slaves is one of several organizations that will benefit from Make A Stand Lemon-Aid sales.

The Stillmotion team was in Washington this week to film an extended interview with our executive director, Maurice Middleberg. They’ll be heading to the frontlines of slavery soon to photograph how the Free the Slaves model helps people break free and stay free.

Stay tuned – we’ll keep you posted when the film is ready!

Gold mine in Obuasi, Ghana

Children sift ore by hand to extract gold in Ghana

Boys as young as 12 are working with dangerous chemicals to extract gold dust from ore. Girls as young as 10 are prostituted in mining camps and are pushed into relationships with older men.

These deeply moving stories of children losing their childhoods and freedom to violence, hard labor, prostitution, and sexual abuse are some of the key findings of recent FTS research on child slavery in Ghana’s gold mining regions.

The investigation was part of our 18-month Child Rights in Mining Project. Free the Slaves and our on-the-ground partners in Ghana, Participatory Development Associates and Social Support Foundation, conducted qualitative research into modern forms of slavery, including child sex trafficking and the related and overlapping problem of hazardous child labor.

Researchers aimed to document the dynamics of exploitation and abuse of children in Obuasi, Ghana, where informal small-scale and artisanal gold mining occurs. Ghanaian human rights groups have been concerned for many years about the enslavement and exploitation of children linked with so-called “galamsey” mining sites, which are sites where unlicensed informal mining takes place, but very little research has been carried out in this area.

Read the research report summary here.

Key Recommendations:

  • Build the capacity of state institutions responsible for child protection.
  • Provide adequate resources to state institutions, such as the Department of Social Welfare.
  • Enable community groups within the mining areas to develop community action plans through which local residents identify steps that can be taken to address sexual abuse and exploitation of children.
  • Form active and well-trained child protection groups in each community to help identify local risks to children and act to protect them.
  • Clarify procedures for reporting cases of sexual abuse and exploitation.
  • Ensure the effective enforcement of criminal laws against child slavery, sex trafficking and sexual abuse, worst forms of child labor and other forms of child exploitation.
  • Disseminate regular messages to local residents about children’s rights, child slavery and sex trafficking, hazardous child labor, child labor slavery and sexual violence.

These recommendations are intended to guide local facilitators as they assist community groups in demanding adequate child protection responses from government. They provide a reference point for community advocacy with local officials to demand that they meet their obligations to curtail sex trafficking, child labor slavery, hazardous child labor and other forms of child exploitation in Ghana’s informal mining communities.

As a result of the research, FTS and its partners produced a series of three booklets to educate community members. The stories in these booklets focus on three themes that emerged from the research: the importance of good parenting, the dangers of child labor, and the existence and root causes of sexual violence against children.

The booklets have been used with more than 350 participants in 25 learning groups led by trained community facilitators. The groups met weekly or bi-weekly to discuss the illustrated stories and how to take up ways to reduce sexual violence and child labor and protect children.


One of the illustrated booklets tells the story of a boy who is forced to drop out of school and work in a mine.

An evaluation of the pilot project was recently concluded. It showed profound results in successfully shifting community attitudes about the rights and protection of children, resulting in the removal of children from situations of slavery and hazardous labor. A detailed report of the pilot project will be released soon.

Read more about FTS work in Ghana here.

school 01

As the school year begins, it’s important to recognize that teaching is a profession that often requires bravery. But one teacher in India, Daulati Kumari, brings a special kind of bravery to her classroom.

Daulati escaped slavery only a few years ago, and now she teaches children in a Free the Slaves program in communities where slavery is rampant.

Daulati was kidnapped by a man who had offered to take her to a doctor. Instead, she was sold into a forced marriage and enslaved for five months. Her parents alerted volunteers affiliated with MSEMVS, a frontline organization that receives funding and training from Free the Slaves. They went to court to force local police to help.

After Daulati was free, she enrolled at the Free the Slaves Punarnawa Ashram, where survivors recover and prepare to return to normal life. She studied hard at the ashram’s school, and when she was ready, she decided to join MSEMVS as a teacher.

daluti teaching 1“I never imagined that I would teach children,” Daulati says. “I learned a lot in the ashram.”

She’s seen as a local hero at small schools in isolated communities where violent thugs enslave families and traffic children.

“They are intelligent kids,” she says, but formal education “is difficult because they have never been to school. I sit with each child, and hold their hand.”

Daulati knows the risks she is taking. But she also knows that without education, children are vulnerable to slavery. She is an emerging leader in a growing movement to create a generation that will live in freedom.

That is what sets Free the Slaves apart: we are building a movement of survivors, of people around the world who are standing up to slaveholders.  Last year alone, we helped free more than 1,750 slaves and educated more than 14,000 community members how to resist slavery.

Daulati is doing her part. Will you do yours?

Please consider making or renewing your donation to Free the Slaves today. Our program is working, but without support from you, slaves wait. End the wait. Make a gift. Help us build a future without slavery.

ELT200709290310082503989Today marks the 12th annual World Day Against Child Labor,  started by the International Labor Organization (ILO) to highlight the plight of hundreds of millions of children engaged in work that deprives them of education, health, and basic rights. Many of these children are enslaved.

This year, the ILO focuses on ensuring that children are not exposed to abuse and exploitation in domestic work. The organization releases a report today, which estimates more than 10 million children perform domestic work. The report outlines the types of violence and abuse they face.

FTS is one of many organizations working to put an end to child slavery in domestic work.

Our program in Haiti targets a system known as restavek, which affects about 10 percent of all Haitian children. Thousands of children from rural communities are sold to serve as domestic workers in urban areas, waking before dawn to cook, clean and run errands that last late into the night. Most never go to school and many are abused physically and sexually.


Elvie Floriant (left) retrieved her daughter, Natacha Benoit, from restavek slavery after learning about the abuses children suffer. | Photo: FTS/FitzPatrick

Through our local partner, Fondasyon Limye Lavi, FTS has trained more than 600 community members in child rights and reproductive health through an in depth, community-based process.

This has inspired parents to retrieve 20 children from restavek in the past year. Villagers are forming community child protection committees that serve as watchdog groups to look out for restavek traffickers. Our Haiti program also helps community organizers that support needy families at risk of sending their children into restavek.

The protection of children is a major component of all FTS country programs worldwide.

On this World Day Against Child Labor, FTS is pleased to announce that we have recently joined the U.S.-based Child Labor Coalition, which consists of leading human rights organizations working to combat exploitative child labor domestically and globally.