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Free the Slaves liberates slaves and changes the conditions that allow slavery to persist.
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New School Fights Slavery in Senegal
It doesn’t look like much, just a small brick building with a dirt floor and tin roof. But it’s a major step in ending child slavery in Senegal.

Residents of Hamdallaye have typically sent their children to boarding schools in the city to learn the Quran because there is no religious school in their isolated village. Unfortunately, some children never return because traffickers posing as religious teachers force children into street begging slavery instead.

No longer, for residents of Hamdallaye. Free the Slaves and our Senegalese partner organization have been educating villagers about the dangers of sending children far away from home. We recently bussed a delegation of village leaders to the city of Saint-Louis, where they saw firsthand how children are trapped in begging gangs in dangerous traffic on crowded streets.

It was an eye-opener. The village’s community child protection committee mobilized their neighbors to raise funds, hire an Islamic teacher and build their own school. Now, 37 children are learning the Quran in their home village, safe from harm. Villagers are sharing their idea of local religious education to avoid the risks of slavery with neighboring communities.

The Hamdallaye success story shows how educating and mobilizing vulnerable communities can be a game-changer in the fight against child trafficking. Learn more about the Aar Sunu Xaleyi (Protect Our Children) project on our Senegal webpage.
Building a Slavery-Free Fashion Industry

Our 2018 Fashion for Freedom Event in New York was a fantastic success. Scores of Free the Slaves supporters and ethical fashion advocates gathered in Manhattan for an uplifting evening.

“The Fashion for Freedom Event was a snapshot of what ethical fashion can be at its greatest," wrote Camille Mori in her Ethical Fashion Nerd blog. "We need to keep pushing for change. Even though there was a sense that this is only the beginning and that enormous efforts still need to be made, there was excitement in the air. The room was full of a supportive community ready to take action and find ways to drive policy, consumer behavior, and industry change to protect people at every level of the supply chain.”

The event featured ethical brand pop-up stores and presentations from leaders in the ethical fashion movement.

“The fashion industry really is about women. It’s our responsibility as free women to help free our enslaved sisters,” Benita Robledo noted in her Compassion Fashion blog. “We as citizens must demand better from our government as well as our brands.”

Free the Slaves continued its Freedom Awards initiative with our first-ever Fashion for Freedom Award. The winner was Flor Molina, whose remarkable rise from fashion industry trafficking victim to White House anti-trafficking adviser is a beacon of hope.

“She discussed, with heartbreaking detail, that her trafficker forced her to live in the factory and did not even allow her to shower, and how we all need to fight for the dignity of the people who manufacture our clothing,” Kellie Hayden Porter wrote in The Wholehearted Wardrobe blog.

“What [Molina’s experience] reminds us is that slavery isn’t something over there. It’s something over here,” Free the Slaves Executive Director Maurice Middleberg told the Voice of America TV crew covering the event. "As long as it exists anywhere, we run the risk of having the slave next door, the slave who’s serving us, the slave who’s working for us. And I don’t think any decent American wants to be party to that,” he said.

Our thanks to the many speakers, sponsors and volunteers who made the event such a success. It’s not too late to support our summer-long Fashion for Freedom Campaign. Visit our campaign website and shop our ethical fashion online storefront on DoneGood to find out how you can get modern slavery out of your wardrobe. 

Community Liberation Initiative Takes Root

Free the Slaves has begun the work of educating field workers at high-impact international development organizations how to liberate entire communities from slavery. This year, we have partnered with READ Nepal, a group that helps villagers improve their livelihoods, literacy, health and technology. More than 1,550 women and girls and 1,050 men and boys have been educated about their rights and risks through street theater, classroom presentations and youth group mobilizations. Front-line activists have discovered 29 trafficking cases, including 18 children, and a border checkpoint has been uncovered that is commonly used by traffickers.

In India, we have been helping the Salvation Army integrate anti-trafficking strategies into the organization’s other projects. For example, Salvation Army staffers work with self-help groups to improve access to affordable credit; they now recognize the need to promote basic rights and help women escape debt bondage. Similarly, staff members reported a new focus on people working in brick kilns, sand collection and sugar cane farms, which are occupations plagued by slavery. The children of women in prostitution have become a new focus for Salvation Army staff, as children raised in brothels often become trapped in sex or labor slavery at a young age.

These early interventions show the tremendous potential of our Community Liberation Initiative. Learn more on the Free the Slaves website here.

2017 Annual Report Now Online

Free the Slaves Executive Director Maurice Middleberg explains that the theme of our most recent annual report is Communities, Counterparts and Coalitions.

“The heart and soul of Free the Slaves remains our support to communities struggling for freedom,” he says. “With a tested model in hand, we are forging partnerships with a new generation of counterparts who can achieve impact at large scale.” As well, Middleberg notes, “Free the Slaves is catalyzing and supporting coalitions that can amplify advocacy and accelerate learning."
 
See the full report − featuring our work to safeguard children, protect women and girls, raise global awareness, and advance thought leadership in the anti-trafficking movement − here.

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