Free the Slaves liberates slaves and changes the conditions that allow slavery to persist.
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Faces of Freedom in Ghana

A new special FTS series profiles children who have survived slavery on Ghana’s Lake Volta. They were forced to work day and night on dangerous, deadly fishing boats. They were abused, held under threat of violence, unable to walk away. Many children enslaved on the lake are never seen again. But these inspiring survivors highlight how our community-based model for freedom really works.

Photographer Emily Teague volunteered to photograph child slavery on Lake Volta and document the remarkable stories of children who have escaped or been rescued thanks to our “Growing Up Free” program. Her photography is disquieting.

The stories behind the photos are just as remarkable. Setsofia was sold into slavery by his bedridden mother, who was desperate for money. Dodzi was trafficked as an orphan. Francis’ father was a trafficker himself, who sold his own son. They are now all living free thanks to the courageous and innovative teamwork of Free the Slaves and our front-line partner organizations. See the photos and read the stories on our Ghana webpage.

Empowering Communities for Freedom: 2016 Impact

Why I free slaves

Our annual results demonstrate how Free the Slaves liberates people from slavery and changes the conditions that allow slavery to persist. We’re not only helping people break free, we’re ensuring they stay free and nobody takes their place in bondage.

Other 2016 highlights:

DATA SURGE: We have been meticulously monitoring the implementation of our community-based model by in-country partner organizations to evaluate its effectiveness. Our three-year intensive field testing concluded in 2016. Our team is now crunching the numbers. We’ll keep you posted.

NEW COUNTRY: The new “Protect Our Children” project in Senegal aims to stem the flow of children into street begging slavery. Many children are lured from villages to cities by traffickers posing as educators at religious boarding schools. We’re educating parents about the dangers and helping legitimate schools weed-out imposters.

NEW RESEARCH: Harvard University researchers say the FTS model is changing lives in India. A 2016 study found our strategy is “reducing indebtedness and threats of violence, improving wage levels and generating a sense of collective efficacy.” This led to “a strong effect on food security, access to medical care, civic participation and take up of government programs.” Also in India, an FTS pilot project showed that cell phones are an excellent way to educate those in slavery about their rights.

CELEBRATING INNOVATION: Free the Slaves honored the work of Smarthan with a Freedom Award in 2016, recognizing their innovative use of radio to fight poverty and bonded labor slavery in India. The group received a $10,000 prize to expand its work.

Our full annual report will be available later this year. 

Critical Time to Stand Firm for Freedom

This is “Combating Human Trafficking and Child Protection Week” in the U.S. House. It's a good time for a situation update on the state of play for America’s most critical human trafficking legislation.

Trafficking Victims Protection Act: This landmark law, first passed in 2000, provides the architecture for America’s federal anti-slavery efforts. It sunsets this year and must be renewed. FTS has been working in both the House and Senate to ensure the act is reauthorized and strengthened

Other Legislation: We’re supporting a bill to prevent traffickers from using U.S. banks to launder illicit profits, and a proposal to integrate anti-slavery work into projects at the U.S. Agency for International Development, and a bill to strengthen the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report and require international development institutions to ensure their projects don’t make slavery worse. We have provided agency-by-agency spending guidance for the 2018 federal budget. And we have expressed deep concern over potential cuts in programs that address gender-based violence.

Presidential Briefing & Executive Orders: President Trump invited the Generation Freedom network, which includes Free the Slaves, to brief him on ways to maintain American leadership in combating slavery worldwide. He pledged to “do more.” Some of the president’s orders have the potential to increase human trafficking rather than reduce it. Free the Slaves has voiced opposition to a crackdown on sanctuary cities and has told the Trump administration that a narrow prosecution-only approach to fighting modern slavery falls short.

Stay in touch on the latest policy news on the FTS Blog and our Twitter and Facebook feeds. 

Changes on the FTS Board of Directors

We bid farewell this spring to two longtime board members. Board Chair Jane Covey and former Board Vice-Chair Timothy Patrick McCarthy have guided Free the Slaves through a vital transformation—from a scrappy startup to a mature organization.

“Never before have I had, nor do I expect to have again, the pleasure and honor of working with and for a finer group of people,” Jane said at her final meeting.

“Only the people who figure out how to coordinate the head, the heart and the soul, who live lives of intention and try to be of service, are the people that history books remember,” Tim noted. “That’s what I’ve tried to do, and I know that everyone at this table is the same way.”

Our new board chair is Gregory Haile, who says one of his goals will be to expand the FTS partner network. “I want to insure that we’re giving them the tools that they need to be ambassadors for the movement,” he says.

FTS welcomes two new board members this spring. 

Evelyn Chumbow is a slavery survivor who was trafficked as a child from Cameroon to the U.S. She’s now a project assistant at the law firm of Baker McKenzie. “I’ve always admired the work that Free the Slaves does,” she says, “it’s only right that there be a slavery survivor on the board.”

Alison Friedman is the former deputy director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the U.S. State Department. “The first time I ever saw slavery in the field was with FTS partners,” she says. “As long as I live, I will never forget meeting the children who once were forced to work in rice fields but now are attending school under a tree.”

What Slaveholders Think 

A former Free the Slaves staffer is breaking new ground in our understanding of human trafficking. Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick has just released a remarkable book that goes inside the minds of slaveholders. What Slaveholders Think reveals how traffickers rationalize the subjugation of other human beings and how they respond when their power is threatened. 

“Once we talk to perpetrators, more of their reality comes into focus,” Austin says when explaining why he chose to look into the psychology of human traffickers. “We know as much about slaveholders today as we did about victims two decades ago; hardly anything.” 

Book sales benefit Free the Slaves!  

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