Here is a heartwarming update from two 2010 Freedom Award winners!
One of the most moving moments from the 2010 Freedom Awards occurred when Wilberforce Award winner Roger Plant announced from the stage that he was donating his cash prize to another award-winner, JEEVIKA. Founded by Kiran Kamal Prasad, Karnataka, India-based organization JEEVIKA works to eradicate bonded labor.
Roger’s father, Arthur Plant passed away just a month prior to the awards ceremony. So, Roger said, he was giving the money to remember his father, and to honor JEEVIKA’s work: “I hope [JEEVIKA] can use [the money] for a series of small grants. Let’s call them the Arthur Awards to show how even small sums can change people’s lives. I want to hold just a little amount back to go there in a year’s time to get to know the beneficiaries and see the impact on their lives. And I then hope to build bridges between thsi real work on the ground and the policy world, convincing others to use their money to tackle the causes of slavery, and help those who suffered from it.”
Watch video of Roger Plant’s Freedom Award acceptance speech below. To see the 2010 Freedom Awards in their entirety, go here.
JEEVIKA’s founder Kiran Kamal Prasad honored Roger’s request, and staged the Arthur Awards earlier this year. Kiran wrote about the ceremony on JEEVIKA’s website here. And, he sent Roger a letter detailing the program. Roger and Kiran shared this message with Free the Slaves, and we are sharing it with you now. Read the letter after the jump!
Later on this year, Roger will go to Karnataka, India, to visit with Kiran and the Arthur Award winners. We’ll keep you updated on the developments.
Despite the fact that slavery is illegal, modern day slavery thrives in many parts of India. There are millions of bonded labor slaves in the sub-continent. Most of these are Dalits—people of the so-called “untouchable” caste—who are saddled with bogus debts they can never work off. In order to receive the government compensation for being enslaved, victims must secure “release certificates” from the government, which officially recognizes their emancipation.
Release certificates are usually given to victims who have already been transported to their place of enslavement, and are in the midst of laboring against their will. But what about victims rescued in the middle of transit—who have already been saddled with debt, but have yet to arrive at their destination?
Bihar, India based anti-slavery NGO and Free the Slaves partner DDWS has organized countless rescues of trafficking victims at transit points like train stations and bus terminals. By doing so, DDWS has been able to save people even before they were subjected to long term confinement and forced labor.
But DDWS struggled to provide these victims with comprehensive support because, until recently, the local government did not recognize that these people in transit were already enslaved, and would not give them release certificates and support services.
“[These] victims travel under bonded conditions,” a recent DDWS report said. “They have already been put under a bond in their village when they or their family members take an advance or loan from the brokers/traffickers, pledging their labor.” The report continues: “Still, district administrations would not even take statements of these victims… and they always ignored medical checkups.”
But there are signs that things are changing. Late last year, DDWS organized a rescue team that intercepted five children in the midst of being trafficked. And for the first time in Bihar, the local District Magistrate agreed to give these victims release certificates. This sets a new precedent for the state—and may indicate a major breakthrough in the local government’s approach to eradicating slavery.
Free the Slaves Partnerships Director Ginny Baumann says, “It’s an important policy achievement to have release certificates issued while bonded labor slaves are still in transit because many victims are rescued at that point—and if they don’t get practical help, they may get re-trafficked. If the issuing of release certificates, and subsequent financial compensation does become common practice, it will protect many more people.”
Our friends at the Superforest Blog have written a wonderful article on 2010 Freedom Award winner JEEVIKA! This is the first in a four part series of blog posts, profiling all four 2010 awardees: JEEVIKA, Tina Frundt, Roger Plant, and (yours truly) Anne Keehn. Here’s an excerpt (via Superforest):
Inspiration Information — JEEVIKA
“I dream for a world and people living in total equality, freedom and fellowship.” –Kiran Kamal Prasad
A few weeks ago I attended to the Freedom Awards — an event thrown by freetheslaves.net to honor those present day abolitionists who have dedicated their lives to fighting modern slavery. I promised then that I would dedicate an inspiration post to each of the four award winners from that tonight. Today’s post focuses on the Harriet Tubman Freedom Award winner: JEEVIKA.
When talking about slavery, nowhere in the world suffers more humans in forced bondage than India. It is a problem not only of vast population, limited resources and rampant poverty, but also of a deeply ingrained socio-cultural caste system. There over 1 billion in India today. More than a quarter of them are dalits —untouchables. For centuries, this lowest caste has been subjected to extreme poverty and humiliation. Simply being born into a dalit family insure a life of hardship and oppression. Not all dalits are slaves, but a significant majority spend their entire lives trapped in debt bondage, perhaps from a small amount borrowed from wealthy farm owners to pay for a family emergency. They’ve been cheated when exploitative landlords claim the debts have never been repaid. Often these debts are passed down by generation, with sons and daughters inheriting the bondage from their fathers fathers. It is a form of illegal and unquestionable slavery without many outlets for recourse.
And that’s where Kiran Kamal Prasad comes in. A former Jesuit priest, Kiran first discovered that the practice of bonded labor was officially outlawed in India over 30 years ago. Ever since, he has worked tirelessly to speak directly with current slaves and powerful land owners to grant their workers’ freedom.
To learn more about JEEVIKA go here.
To donate to Free the Slaves go here.
We received some exciting news today from India. 2010 Harriet Tubman award winning organization JEEVIKA works in Karnataka, a state in southern India where slavery in the form of bonded labor is prevalent. JEEVIKA’s founder Kiran Prasad works largely with the Dalits—a community historically put at the bottom of society, and disproportionately placed into bonded labor. Slavery is illegal in India, but societal pressures and prejudices allow it to prevail. Prasad and his staff empower the community with knowledge of the law, and support survivors of bonded labor through the long, legal process of emancipation.
Today, Kiran sent news that 102 bonded labors have been officially freed. They have all received release certificates, legally absolving them of obligations to their slave masters.
Earlier this month, Kiran, accompanied by former bonded laborer and current JEEVIKA community activist Shivanna Puttaiah, received a Freedom Award at a star-studded ceremony in Los Angeles. We are moved—and delighted—to see these photographs of Kiran presenting others with the gift of freedom.
In an email sent to FTS staff, Kiran said, “I emphasized the need to continuously identify the bonded labourers and rehabilitate them until the bonded system is wiped out.”
Despite seemingly insurmountable economic and social obstacles, JEEVIKA has helped guide thousands of former slaves toward freedom. To find out more about their work—and to donate to the organization—go here.
Washington, D.C.—At a hearing held by the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday, the State Department’s anti-trafficking Ambassador Luis CdeBaca recommended that slavery eradication efforts take a more victim centered approach. Survivors of modern day slavery should not be treated like criminals, he said.
The hearing, titled “Out of the Shadows: The Global Fight Against Human Trafficking,” took a broad based look at human trafficking around the world and what was being done to combat it.
MODERN SLAVERY IS ‘SUBTLE’
Slavery is often difficult to detect. And millions are vulnerable to it. Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) said there is only a “thin line between being short on your paycheck and being held bondage.”
Neha Misra of the Solidarity Center’s Migration and Human Trafficking program said media and policy focus on commercial sexual exploitation has caused enslaved laborers to be overlooked.
“In 2010, a slave is not necessarily a person in chains or shackles,” she said. “Modern day slavery can be much more subtle. Trafficking victims toil in factories that produce products that are exported to the U.S. [They] harvest vegetables and process food that ends up on our dining room tables,… pick crops or mine minerals that are raw materials in the products we buy.”
SLAVERY IN ASIA
Asian countries and their Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report rankings were at the center of much of the discussion.
Representative Ed Royce (R-CA) showed his disappointment that Cambodia was moved up from Tier 3—the lowest possible ranking—to Tier 2, saying it was a “slap in the face to the thousands of victims” still enslaved. David S. Abramowitz, Director of Policy and Government Relations at Humanity United spoke about his work in Nepal, where 90 percent of migrant workers are trafficked into labor and sex slavery.
Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) shared stories of North Korean defectors trafficked in China. He criticized China’s one child policy, saying it contributed to the trafficking of women into forced marriages. He pointed to an investigative article in The Economist titled “The War on Baby Girls” that said 100 million girls are missing, due to sex selective abortions in China and Northwestern India.
And yet, China and India are Tier 2 countries. Smith urged CdeBaca to re-assess these rankings, saying that neither country complies with the minimum standards prescribed by the Trafficking Victims Protections Act.
MOST OF THE WORLD’S SLAVES ARE IN INDIA
India’s caste system drives millions into slavery, said Dr. Beryl Ann D’Souza, Medical Director of the Dalit Freedom Network. “Of the 27 million people around the world that the UN considers human slaves in the trafficking industry, the UN recognizes that most live in India and most are Dalits,” she said. Dalits are the lowest level of India’s caste system. While slavery is illegal in India, centuries of social pressure keep many dalits in bonded labor.