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.
Several U.S. cabinet secretaries will gather Friday morning at the White House for the annual meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
The meeting will be chaired by Secretary of State John Kerry, and will include Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett, and other agency heads and senior White House officials, according to a State Department notice.
This event will be live-streamed on www.whitehouse.gov/live on Friday, May 17, at 9:45 a.m. ET.
“The annual cabinet-level meeting serves as an opportunity to coordinate government-wide efforts and discuss new initiatives in the struggle to end modern slavery,” the State Dept. notice says. It will be the first task force meeting under Kerry’s tenure as secretary of state.
He is expected to also present medals to life-long victim advocate Florrie Burke and the global hospitality and travel company Carlson, recipients of the first-ever Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons.
I’m writing to tell you about an extraordinary man and his remarkable legal clinic in India.
The man is Roshan Lal. He was raised in a family of slaves. Now he is free and helping those still in slavery.
Roshan’s clinic is a testament to his courage and dedication. It’s a small brick outpost surrounded by vast fields of wheat. Women and men crowd inside on a bare floor.
What Roshan accomplishes in this simple setting – work made possible by your continuing support – is proof that victory is possible. Victory against violent moneylenders, contractors and gangsters who afflict this part of northern India.
Roshan’s story is an inspiring example of how your investment in Free the Slaves is an investment in freedom.
Where Roshan lives, slavery endures. His neighbors are forced to make bricks, crush stones and harvest crops under the harshest conditions. They are not paid. They suffer physical and sexual abuse. Roshan knows these hardships. He endured them too.
Fortunately, activists supported by Free the Slaves reached Roshan’s family several years ago. They broke the hold of traffickers. Roshan’s family started new lives in freedom.
This is the transformation that you’re making possible by donating to Free the Slaves. Preventing slavery, rescuing the enslaved, helping freed slaves build new lives, promoting the prosecution of slaveholders.
We work with local partners to combat the schemes and conditions that force people into slavery and allow slavery to persist. Our strategy is effective. We need your help to bring it to many more people like Roshan.
Once free, Roshan was able to resume his education. He’s now in law school, and works as a paralegal in the tiny brick clinic.
“I want to help everyone get their human rights,” he says. “My dream is to bring freedom to everyone who is enslaved.”
There are heroes like Roshan in all our programs. Freed slaves, inspired to help those still enslaved.
I hope that you will take this opportunity to make or renew your contribution to Free the Slaves.
Your gift enables Roshan and others to spread freedom around the world.
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.
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!