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The Freedom Fund Announces Transformative Initiative to Bring Women and Survivors of Modern Slavery Into Leadership Positions in Anti-Slavery Organizations

Press release
December 2, 2020

Freedom Rising will invest in training, support to women and survivors to lead the movement

LONDON — More than 70% of people in modern slavery are women. But of the groups working to liberate people and end the conditions that lead to modern slavery, very few are led by women and survivors of slavery. The Freedom Fund, the largest global funder of frontline, anti-slavery organizations, believes that women and survivors should be at the center of the work to end modern slavery. Today, with $1.2 million in funding, with support from Laudes Foundation, Stardust Fund, The Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund, UBS Optimus Foundation and Lisa Wolverton, President, Wolverton Foundation, the Freedom Fund launched Freedom Rising, a program to identify, equip, empower and support women and survivors of modern slavery to become leaders of anti-slavery organizations in their communities and in the global movement. 

“We know from our experience supporting frontline organizations that the most effective and sustained way to end modern slavery is to incorporate the experiences and the leadership of women and survivors,” said Nick Grono, CEO of the Freedom Fund. “Gender bias and systemic discrimination are factors that make women and girls particularly vulnerable to modern slavery in the first place. We must center our work around the leadership of women and survivors in order to address these underlying causes. We believe we can transform the face of the movement one leader at a time, and we must start now.”

Click here to watch our short film about Freedom Rising.  

The program is designed to support leaders through a personal learning journey that provides the skills and space for participants to experience, analyze and apply their learning. Not only must women and survivors work through their experiences of trauma and bias, they must also learn new approaches to leadership in a culture where their voices are chronically undervalued or dismissed. 

“Since I’ve come to work as a social worker, I have transformed myself into a warrior to protect women and children,” said P. Jayashree, Program Manager at CARE and a participant in the Freedom Rising program. “To know that this movement is going to stand exactly for this, it is my big desire, happiness and ambition.” Jayashree, who started working in a spinning mill at the age of 14, now leads a team of 30 volunteers to end exploitation of other adolescent girls in the spinning mills of Tamil Nadu. 

Each cohort of 50 leaders will receive a minimum of 12 months of mentorship, leadership and technical skills training, before graduating to join the Freedom Rising alumni network. Due to covid-19, the program has been adapted to provide online learning until the in-person training can be safely delivered.

“We invested in Freedom Rising because we believe that transformational change comes only when women are in leadership positions and in influential roles sharing power and exerting influence,” said Natasha Dolby, founder of Freedom Forward and Board member of the Freedom Fund. “These women are the best positioned to understand, analyze and shape what needs to happen in their organizations and communities, and with the anti-slavery movement at-large. We’re aware that changing norms takes time, but we’re behind the Freedom Fund’s vision that we must start now, when multiple pandemics that impact women worldwide have converged.”

“This program is providing support and connection to frontline leaders at a time of unique stress and isolation,” said Claire Falconer, Head of Global Initiatives and Movement Building at the Freedom Fund. “The COVID-19 pandemic has placed enormous pressure on anti-slavery organizations. As they respond and recover, Freedom Rising will be there to shape the future of a movement that will be stronger, more resilient, and truly representative of the communities it serves.”  

Freedom Rising differs from many other leadership programs in its explicit focus on building a stronger, more strategic, and more representative anti-slavery movement. After completing the year-long leadership training, participants will be formally introduced to the program’s alumni network, enabling them to continue to build and strengthen connections at the local, regional and international levels. The program will be piloted in Tamil Nadu in Southern India throughout 2021. Learnings from the pilot will be used to adapt and improve the program before its roll out. The curriculum will then be tailored to the specific needs and context of each training location, and delivered in local language.  

“Initiatives to support women’s leadership like this one are crucial, especially at this critical moment as the world battles a global pandemic,” said Nada Al-Nashif, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights. “We know that putting women at the center, indeed ensuring women are at the helm, will help ensure our collective success in meeting the global changes that we face together.”


The Freedom Fund is a leader in the global movement to end modern slavery. We identify and invest in the most effective frontline efforts to eradicate modern slavery in the countries and sectors where it is most prevalent. Partnering with visionary investors, governments, anti-slavery organisations and those at risk of exploitation, we tackle the systems that allow slavery to persist and thrive.

Written by
The Freedom Fund