International development work can be tricky. Imagine building a school for 100 village children in Africa, but on opening day 20 desks are empty because those kids are enslaved at a mine. Disappointing, and tragic. That’s why we say that everything begins with freedom. Breaking someone out of bondage brings a “freedom dividend” — a wide range of social and economic benefits. People cannot improve their lives and pursue better opportunities if they’re trapped by traffickers.
When people are free, everything becomes possible. And you can make it happen.
These are the top ten ways in which development starts with freedom:
- Education starts with freedom: children trapped in forced labor are prevented from attending school. Without acquiring formal education it is nearly impossible for these children to come out of poverty and become productive members of society.
- Nutrition starts with freedom: it is common for slavery victims to endure starvation, as they become weak and dependent on their slaveholders they are less likely to attempt escape. Malnourishment often precedes more serious illnesses and holds people back from their developmental capacities.
- Healthcare stars with freedom: today’s slavery victims are considered disposable. The well-being of slaves is not a priority for slaveholders therefore their health deteriorates faster as they endure brutal working conditions. The environment in which slavery victims are forced to live in is often neither safe nor sanitary, they are vulnerable to diseases and injuries, and unable to access doctors or medicines to treat their conditions.
- Equality starts with freedom: the majority of today’s slavery victims are impoverished women and girls. Women’s unequal status in society makes them an easier target for slaveholders and as such disproportionately suffer the consequences that derive from being in slavery.
- Safety starts with freedom: slavery victims are forced to live under exploitative environments, they suffer from abuse, beatings, and rape. Their basic human right to live without fear or intimidation is completely stripped away.
- Dreams start with freedom: under slavery it is virtually impossible for people to envision a bright future, their hopes and dreams are stepped on and ridiculed. For slavery victims the goal is to survive or to be rescued, nothing else really matters.
- Shelter starts with freedom: slavery victims often don’t have a home to call their own or are kept far away the one they used to have. A home for many represents more than a place to rest — it provides safety, freedom, and privacy.
- Innovation starts with freedom: enslaved people are unable to promote their ideas, to work under fruitful or supportive environments, or pursue better economic opportunities. Slavery victims are deprived from making progressive contributions for the overall development of their communities.
- Savings start with freedom: slavery is the antithesis of economic security and independence. But beyond trying to make enough money to barely survive, people need to have the opportunity to save up and have the freedom to dispose the money they earn as they see fit.
- Dignity starts with freedom: enslaved people are treated as anything but valuable human beings. Slavery strips away the humanity in people as they are constantly humiliated and reminded of their limited options in life. One cannot advance the development of an individual when he or she is incapable of reassuring their own self-worth and ability to grow.
All international development organizations should incorporate anti-slavery strategies into their projects. That will eliminate slavery as a contributing cause of socioeconomic problems within vulnerable communities. It will expand the reach of development programs by removing slavery as a barrier that blocks community members from participating in aid projects. And, it will enhance the sustainability of development interventions by ensuring the beneficiaries aren’t enslaved by human traffickers in the future.
You can help us train fellow community activists to fight slavery on the frontlines. Every contribution to Free the Slaves is a step toward freedom for all. Freedom starts with you.