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!
Trickery cuts a wide swath in India’s impoverished communities. People often leave home in search of work, and many find themselves being trafficked instead.
FTS frontline partner MSEMVS aims to change that. And young people are at the heart of the strategy. The goal of the Trafficking Prevention Plan is to stop migration from becoming a road to slavery.
To do that, MSEMVS targets schools in some of India’s most vulnerable villages. Using case studies, posters and pamphlets, they teach students about the risks of migration and the realities of human trafficking.
With millions of people on the move worldwide, it’s easy for traffickers to pose as legitimate labor recruiters. Students are now being taught the warning signs so they won’t fall victim when they grow up.
The events are organized as mass meetings, with 250 to 300 students per site. To make the lesson stick, the approach is interactive. It’s not a lecture. Students discuss ways that they can become agents of change in their own communities.
Organizers provide a telephone hotline number and leave a “Report Box” at schools for anonymous tip-offs about suspicious activities that might be related to trafficking.
It’s working. At one location, students provided more than 30 tips for community organizers to investigate.
This educational initiative is one reason that more and more people are escaping slavery at farms, brick kilns, brothels and factories. MSEMVS reports that in 2012 they helped nearly 800 people move from slavery to freedom.
Learn more about our India program on the FTS website.
Slavery is a global problem, but it can be overcome.
It’s a simple but important message.
And I was honored to deliver it at Lehigh University’s recent event on human trafficking and modern slavery.
The presentation paralleled the 57th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the world’s principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and the advancement of women.
My talk focused on the scope of slavery today. People can be enslaved in their own communities, or trafficked across borders. They might be sex trafficking victims, or domestic slaves, or trapped in debt bondage, or forced to work with toxic chemicals at a young age. They may work in agriculture, mining, fishing, construction, or hospitality. Poverty, violence, and inequality contribute to slavery.
But my presentation was also about hope. We can do something about slavery. We can empower the people that are the most vulnerable to slavery to reject it.
The Lehigh University program was webcast live from the campus in Pennsylvania to the U.N. conference.
About 150 students, faculty and staff attended the event at Lehigh, while others watched the webcast, including a group all the way in Burma. The audience was captivated by stories of slavery inside the U.S., as well as stories of slavery in Nigeria (such as child marriage).
The Q&A sessions deepened the conversation.
I was asked why slavery is an issue that should be important to everyone. I told the audience to recognize that slavery may be in many of their consumer products, and we must all be smart consumers and support companies working to root-out slavery in their supply chains.
The event was so successful that a group of Lehigh talked about starting a Free The Slaves student chapter.
Thanks to Lehigh University for sponsoring such a wonderful event!
Readers of the FTS Blog may remember the heroism of Ghanaian slavery survivor James Kofi Annan. He received a 2008 Free the Slaves Freedom Award for his work to rescue children from fishing slavery, as well as his work to educate children to prevent the spread of slavery.
Now, James has been nominated for a World’s Children’s Prize. The award promotes children’s rights and global educational programs. Candidates for the prize are nominated by children aged 10 to 18 throughout the world. Then, kids vote for who will win. The online ballot box is now open. Voting ends on October 1st, 2013.
James certainly deserves the nomination and hopefully he’ll win the prize. He lost his childhood at age 6. James’ parents sold him into slavery because they felt they could not afford to feed or school him. He worked under horrible conditions in fishing villages from sunrise to sunset. He was barely fed and hardly had any shelter.
At age 13, James escaped. He befriended children in a school and used their books to learn to read. He worked to feed himself and put himself through school, eventually earning a master’s degree. He became a banker, but decided to leave banking to work full time helping free kids from slavery.
“By rescuing others, I feel I’m rescuing myself,” James says. “I feel that I’m correcting the injustice that was done when I was young.”
James’ organization is called Challenging Heights. It operates a rescue shelter for more than 60 children and a school for 700 students of different ages, and helps communities organize to resist child trafficking.
“James is a passionate advocate for children and dedicated to ensuring that no child ever ends up enslaved as he was,” says FTS Ghana Manager Christy Gillmore. “He understands the root causes of slavery and works to empower communities and children to protect themselves from slavery. He brings children home and makes sure they never go back.”
In another development, James has been selected as a “Change Leader” for an organization called Reach for Change. The group promotes social entrepreneurship as an instrument to advance children’s rights. They support “passionate, result-driven, competitive and involved” people who give their voices for change for children.
James certainly is that. Congratulations to James on his recent honors.