A Call to Action to End Modern Day Slavery

April 16, 2011

This morning a standing-room-only crowd gathered at GPF to hear a philanthropic call to action to end modern-day slavery in our time and for greater collaboration across the social sector to make this a reality. The issues of slavery and human trafficking have approached a tipping point. They are among the fastest-growing and most pressing human rights challenges of our time. Fortunately, public interest and political will in these issues are on the rise.

More than 27 million people are enslaved across the globe in forced labor and the sex trade. Slavery is growing exponentially because it is lucrative, second in profitability only to drug trafficking among illicit enterprises. Rani Hong, co-founder of the Tronie Foundation and a survivor of child trafficking, shared her moving yet hopeful story. Sold into slavery at the age of seven, she was near death a year later—physically and emotionally destroyed. No longer able to contribute to the profitability of her owner’s business, she was sold to an international adoption agency. Today Rani is a tireless advocate on the issue of slavery, causing a global shift in consciousness by exposing the human cost of slavery and advancing a collective voice among survivors.

Kay Buck, Executive Director of the Coalition Against Slavery & Trafficking (CAST), described their important work on the issue of human trafficking. Victims have a long journey to recovery.  CAST’s comprehensive approach first provides the immediate case management and supportive services they need, including legal services and housing.  Survivors then participate in a one-of-a-kind leadership development program, forming a survivor’s caucus that supports advocacy efforts. The impact of their voices on policies and public awareness has led to the development of stronger protections for victims in bothCaliforniaand Federal anti-trafficking laws.

Efforts to raise awareness are bolstered by a range of communications efforts and the contributions of celebrity voices to the cause. Justin Dillon, director of The Fair Trade Fund, Inc., created a “rockumentary” titled CALL+RESPONSE that combines critically acclaimed artists such as Moby and Natasha Bedingfield with social luminaries such as Cornell West, Madeleine Albright and Nicholas Kristoff. In addition, the Fair Trade Fund, Inc. is currently working with the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking to create the first ever ‘Slavery Footprint’ online tool and mobile application. The tool challenges us to recognize our participation in the modern-day slavery as qualified by their consumption of items created by forced labor.

The consensus in the crowded room this morning is that this is a moment of opportunity to address the dark underside of globalization. Media attention is on the rise, political will is growing, and public awareness is increasing. Many capable organizations are ready to convert our indignation and outrage into compassionate action if they have the resources to do so. The conditions are ripe for building a social movement to end modern-day slavery and we must heed the call to action.


Jane Wales, President and Co-founder, Global Philanthropy Forum


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