In 2009, I have seen the anti-slavery movment grow from boutique gatherings to events that involved tens of thousands of people who want to do something to end this evil. Images of child slavery, child soldiers, child sex slaves are in the consciousness of millions more people today than a year ago. This is a movement in which people want to take action, and not simply buy a t-shirt. Every day, I receive more and more requests from people who are inspired to volunteer in rescue operations. But, we also need to focus on stopping the problem before it begins and to ensure that rescue operations are doing a good job.
I took a journey with a delegation from World Pulse to Cambodia in February. It was a gathering of extraordinary, smart and dedicated women. At that time, I served on the Board of the fastest growing anti-slavery organization in the world, raising funds and awareness to end slavery. Our World Pulse journey showed me what works and what fails in the rehabilitation of survivors. I'd like to share some of these top three ideas:
1. Invest in rescue operations that are real. Make sure that there is a functioning operation. Some websites have pictures of buildings that are "to be purchased." Ask questions, and reach out to people in the movement that know whether operations are real. This year, inflated claims that slavery was ended in the cocoa industry were publically refuted by showing that the rescue operation was an empty building.
2. Invest in operations that provide opportunities for job training and placment beyond third world manufacturing and personal care. Ask what language and education services are provided. Make sure that you are not supporting transitioning women from slavery to sweatshop. That is not real, sustainable progress. If you have skills or knowledge, volunteer as an educator.
3. Invest in operations that provide true mental and physical health care. Some operations will not test or treat sex slave rescuees for HIV or other disease. Insist that these basic care needs are met.
Ending slavery - is, in part, about creating lasting opportunities through education and creation of markets. Hold
rescue operations to basic, common sense, standards. Making a difference is a good start of a conversation, but hard work and measurable results are essential.
Beth A. Klein