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It’s time for survivors of exploitation to lead the modern anti-slavery and trafficking movement

October 15, 2021

There are just two weeks left to apply for our Survivor Leadership Fund. Here, Amy Rahe, our Managing Director North America, explains why her heart is full and smile wide about the fund which is centred on our belief that survivors can and should be leading the movement against modern slavery.

Tell us about the Freedom Fund’s new Survivor Leadership Fund?
It’s a super exciting initiative that we’ve been working on for a year. We hope to uplift a new generation of survivor leaders through the fund which aims to distribute more than $1m over the coming five years to organizations around the world led by survivors of extreme exploitation – including human trafficking, forced labour, bonded labour or forced marriage. We are starting the fund in East Africa, targeting organizations in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, offering unrestricted grants of $15k.

Why did you take a leading role in spearheading the initiative?
I passionately believe the global movement to end modern slavery and trafficking must be transformed by transferring leadership and power to survivors themselves. That the power and leadership within this movement should belong with those most impacted by modern slavery. And that we must work to uplift survivors to do so.

What I see is that, until now, far too few anti-slavery organizations have hired or supported survivors into leadership positions within their organizations, preferring instead to use us as advisers to approve strategies after they’ve been built or to tell stories of trauma to mobilize donors. But without survivors in leadership positions those attempts to end modern slavery risk being hollow.

How urgently do you think this needs to change?
Two decades have passed since the Palermo Protocol was passed by the United Nations to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons. This protocol helped to galvanize efforts to tackle modern-day slavery, with human right lawyers, faith leaders and others rallying around the cause. So, if we are serious about ending modern slavery, as so many organizations have committed to doing by 2030, then we absolutely must begin to share and transfer power to those who understand the issue best. Leadership must be transferred into the hands of those who have lived through the oppression we are working so hard to end.

I firmly believe this is how we best bring about the change we’ve all hoped for since the implementation of the Palermo Protocol – a world that is free of modern slavery.

Why is the fund’s trust-based element so important?
First and foremost because we trust survivors to create organizations and innovative strategies that will be more successful than those created by those without the lived experience of exploitation. And because small survivor-led organizations often struggle to access traditional funding models.

Do you hope other organizations will follow this lead?
We hope this is a game-changer for small, survivor-led organizations, paving the way for leaders who can make a meaningful difference. We hope philanthropists and other donors will feel as excited as we do about lifting up survivors into leadership so they can be at the heart of the global movement to end modern slavery, and that other funding organizations will be inspired by this model.

Who can apply?
Any survivor-led organization based in Ethiopia, Kenya or Uganda, however small. Applications for the first round close at the end of October 2021 with details here.

Written by
The Freedom Fund