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Did you know that millions of people around the world are still enslaved?  This means that they don’t have any choices in life, that they work for free, that they toil day in and day out at the mercy of their owners, often under the threat of violence and sometimes without the knowledge that their circumstances could be any different.  Perhaps this is something that you are vaguely aware of but you’ve never given it much thought.  Children, moms, dads, uncles, cousins, aunts, grandparents, physically fit, injured, sick, old; no one is immune to this horrific treatment and no one deserves this.

I was ignorant before I watched a Ted talk given by Lisa Kristine.  It opened my heart to the devastating conditions that people endure and more importantly, what we can do to help eradicate this from our planet.

With over 27 million slaves around the world and annual profits totalling over $32 billion in free labour, the challenge to overcome this seems daunting.  But there’s hope.  Free the Slaves is an organization that works to liberate slaves around the world and to change the systems that allow slavery to exist.

So how can we help?

First we must spread the word that this still exists.  Be part of the anti-slavery movement by talking about it and spreading the message that we can put a stop to it.

We can also boycott slave made products but we must be careful here.  It would be devastating to all cotton farmers if we all decided not to purchase cotton products because we thought some cotton was farmed with slave labour.  There are honest people out there so it’s important that we aim to have the entire supply chain slave-free.  Take the Cocoa Protocol for example.  This is an agreement between the chocolate industry, human rights groups, labour unions and consumers that pledges to work together to remove child labour and slave labour from the supply chain.  The chocolate industry has provided over $10 million dollars to stop slave labour where it occurs, on farms in West Africa.  While their work isn’t complete, the Cocoa Protocol proves that by working across governments and obeying both local and international laws, positive change can occur.

Demand that governments take action.  It’s illegal in every single country and yet it is still allowed to happen.   Every country has passed the laws but now it will take money to enforce them.  Unfortunately, corruption and bribery often help the slave trade to thrive.  But take Brazil for example: in 2003 the President of Brazil set up a commission to end slavery and by 2005 over 11,000 people had been freed and $3 million given to help them get on their feet.  By allocating funding towards this cause, the Brazilian government took a stand and was able to accomplish this.  All our governments need to do this.

I urge you to watch the talk given by Lisa Kristine.   I am thankful to her for her use of photographs to capture this and to spread the word.  They are heartbreaking and yet hauntingly beautiful and along with her words it’s a very powerful message.  The first trip she took to photograph the enslaved was a pivotal moment in her life and was the catalyst for me to seek out more information on the topic.

There’s a lot more you can do.  Visit the Free the Slaves website for more information.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi