I recently completed my first 100 days as executive director of Free the Slaves.
During my first weeks on the job, I spent most of my time reaching out to stakeholders: staff, board members, donors, peer organizations, policy makers and other FTS friends.
These conversations have helped me develop a portrait of Free the Slaves that I want to share with you. I hope to engage you in an ongoing conversation about how to help FTS flourish.
Think of Free the Slaves as a triangle, the three sides being field programs, thought leadership and advocacy.
Field Programs: Our field programs in Brazil, Congo, Ghana, Haiti, India and Nepal are the frontline. Here, we work to prevent slavery, rescue the enslaved, help freed slaves rejoin families and communities, and promote the prosecution of slaveholders and traffickers. In all our programs we work with and through local organizations, building their long-term capacity to fight slavery. Through our programs, we are educating vulnerable populations about their rights, as well as how to resist the schemes and blandishments of traffickers and slaveholders. We are catalyzing collective action by communities to resist slavery and rescue those enslaved. And we are encouraging local authorities to implement the laws that reduce vulnerability to slavery and punish criminals.
I have seen the power of our field programs: mothers and children reunited, men freed from bondage, entire communities slavery-free and slavery-resistant, local officials alerted and mobilized.
In 2012, we helped free more than 1,750 slaves, reached almost 700 communities, educated more than 14,000 villagers in our slavery prevention program and trained more than 1,500 government officials on how to more effectively combat slavery. In addition, our work led to the arrest of 123 alleged traffickers. I am proud of the fact that Free the Slaves is a global leader in implementing grassroots programs against slavery.
The challenge we face is one of scale. We are helping scores of thousands whereas the need is in the millions. We need to expand in the countries in which we currently operate and open new fronts in the fight against slavery. This will require a qualitative leap in resources from our supporters and new strategies that expand programs at successively lower cost.
Thought Leadership: Our field programs are fueling learning. With 13 years of experience, FTS has built an impressive body of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t in the fight against slavery. For example, we have developed great models for training partners, educating communities and mobilizing protection committees at the village level. We are preparing to share those lessons as part of our contribution to the global anti-slavery movement.
Measuring change in the magnitude of slavery remains very challenging for the anti-slavery movement. Slavery and trafficking are criminal enterprises where the perpetrators do their best to remain in the shadows. FTS is launching efforts to pioneer new and better ways to assess progress at the local level.
Advocacy: Learning from our field programs provides the basis for evidence-based advocacy. Free the Slaves is very well positioned to be an advocate for vigorous government action because we bring experience to the table. Appropriate — and vigorously implemented — laws and regulations, as well as adequate government funding, are essential to combating slavery.
FTS has joined with other organizations in the field and in the U.S. to urge policy makers to adopt good policies and provide sufficient funding. Recently, we played a critical role in the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the law that underlies the U.S. government’s programs against slavery.
The next challenge for advocates is securing adequate funding. The resources currently being invested in combating slavery are paltry. Rhetoric is not enough. Accountability is needed. Free the Slaves will shoulder its part of the campaign for resources and accountability.
Field programs, thought leadership and advocacy: These are the pillars of the Free the Slaves strategy to eradicate slavery. In the months to come, I will share via this blog our successes and challenges – and how our supporters can help.
Anticipation is building for the release of this year’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report from the U.S. State Department. The report has become an important diplomatic tool in the fight against modern-day slavery. Businesses also use the rankings to understand the risks of slavery connected to their supply chains. This year’s report will be the first for Secretary of State John Kerry and the Obama administration’s second term in office.
The annual TIP report is a global country-by-country evaluation of efforts to combat trafficking. Countries are graded on a scale from 1 to 3 (Tier 1 is the best, Tier 3 is the worst). Sanctions are possible for underperforming nations. A Tier 2 Watch List includes several countries who aren’t doing enough. By law, they must be demoted to Tier 3 if they don’t improve after two years on the watch list, although waivers of the sanctions are allowed.
The Tier 2 Watch List has caught the attention of several members of Congress. They recently wrote to Kerry, laying out their concern about countries lingering on the list.
“We wish to convey our concern about continued, severe trafficking issues in several countries that are on the Tier 2 Watch List, including China, Uzbekistan, Russia, Iraq, Republic of Congo, and Azerbaijan. These six countries have exhausted under U.S. law the time they can remain on the Tier 2 Watch List and must be elevated to Tier 2 or demoted to Tier 3 in the TIP report this year. We are confident you agree that the Watch List protocol was designed to offer countries a brief added opportunity to make needed changes and should never be used to push countries into a higher ranking than their records merit.” (Read the full letter here).
The letter was signed by 16 members of Congress: Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Rep. John Carter (R-TX), Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA), Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX), Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA).
FTS Director of Programs Karen Stauss says the TIP ranking system has to be “impartial.”
“The U.S. government uses it to target assistance to governments who’ve demonstrated the political will to make progress, but just lack the resources. In other words, places where we can get the most bang for our buck, and won’t be pouring money into a black hole of corruption.”
Stauss believes the 2013 TIP report will be a “moment of truth.”
“We need the U.S. government to keep the pressure on countries that haven’t made any genuine improvements. In other words, no ‘automatic upgrades’ for governments that are not making progress.”
The 2013 TIP report is tentatively scheduled for release in mid-June.
The campaign has been honored in the “New Approaches” category, in recognition of its innovative techniques to build awareness about trafficking among college students.
Broadcast to more than 750 college campuses nationwide, mtvU reaches nearly 9 million U.S. college students – making it the largest, most comprehensive television network just for college students. mtvU can be seen in the dining areas, fitness centers, student lounges and dorm rooms of campuses throughout the U.S.
The Against Our Will Campaign was launched in 2011 at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. The campaign amplifies America’s college students’ efforts to end modern-day slavery in the U.S., and empowers them to learn more and get involved.
The campaign’s website features remarkably creative material – including slavery survivor poetry read by A-list musicians and actors such as Alicia Keys and Jada Pinkett Smith, as well as interactive stories depicting how young people become enslaved, portrayed by interpretative dancers from Ailey II of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Fingers crossed! The Daytime Emmy winners will be announced in mid-June.
Editor’s Note: Slavery survivor Timea Nagy now helps others escape enslavement on the streets of Canada. She is a recipient of a Free the Slaves Freedom Award for her heroic resilience and ongoing commitment to others. Her group, Walk with Me, has recently released a powerful music video, which we thought you should see. We asked Timea to say in her own words how the video came to be.
As the winter months say farewell, warm weather seems to be right on the horizon. Unfortunately, the coming of summer will bring with it a rise in human trafficking in Canada. Sex slavery will return to the streets, and Walk With Me is making a great effort to raise awareness.
Walk With Me Canadian Victim Services is a survivor-led organization dedicated to raising awareness and providing education about slavery, delivering and coordinating services to support survivors, and advocating action for change. We have trained and assisted more than 60,000 law enforcement personnel across Canada since 2009. Our organization has been involved in big cases such as Project OPAPA, assisting 22 victims in Canada’s largest human trafficking case to date.
The battle against human trafficking is now starting to enlist Canadian musicians and dancers. “Break the Silence” — a song written and performed by Francois Mudler, a young, talented Canadian artist – illustrates the struggles of people exploited by human trafficking.
Hearing Francois’ voice had been one of my personal coping and healing mechanisms when I would feel overwhelmed by work or by flashbacks from my past. I was fortunate to actually meet him. Francois then read my book, “Memoirs of a Sex Slave Survivor,” and said he would be happy to write a song to expand public understanding. The dancer in the video is a young artist, who came to our first fundraising gala last year and asked to volunteer any time we need help.
The song was recorded last September. Every single story in the video is real, and permission was granted by those involved in the cases to include their stories. The idea is for anyone to be able to use the video. It has been launched as a public service announcement, aiming to raise awareness all over the world. Funds that are generated will be used to keep providing services for victims of human trafficking.
The End It campaign wants everyone to know that there are 27 million men, women and children living in the shadows. In brothels. In factories. In quarries. Working as slaves. In countries throughout the world, including the U.S.
Their two-month awakening campaign has raised more than $175,000 to benefit anti-slavery groups, including Free the Slaves.
The project concludes tomorrow, April 9th with “Shine a Light on Slavery Day.” It’s a great opportunity to tell someone you know something that they might not know: slavery still exists.
Check the End It website for details on creative ways you can SPREAD THE WORD!