April 23, 2018 / 12:03 AM / a year ago

Survivors' network seeks to turn former slaves into global leaders

LONDON, April 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Survivors of modern slavery are being encouraged to become leaders in the global drive to end the crime through the arts and activism, as part of an online network launched on Monday.

The Survivor Alliance will provide a forum, expert contacts and consulting opportunities for survivors engaged in anti-slavery efforts - from authors and artists to activists and advisers - said academics at Britain’s University of Nottingham.

“(This) moves survivors from being occasional spokespeople to strategic thinkers and movement leaders,” said Zoe Trodd, director of the Rights Lab - the world’s first large-scale research platform on modern-day slavery based at the university.

While no data exists on the number of victims who are freed, rescued or escape from slavery, more than 40 million people are estimated by the United Nations to be trapped globally in forced labour, forced marriages and sexual exploitation.

With the lucrative crime - thought to generate annual global profits of $150 billion - evolving and spreading around the world, countries and charities alike are ramping up efforts to crack down on traffickers and provide support to survivors.

But help must go beyond shelter, and take into account that victims may suffer stigma, discrimination and trauma, and lack access to counseling, healthcare and housing, campaigners say.

“Freedom is more than the moment of exit from slavery ... it is an ongoing journey and process,” said Minh Dang, who is studying post-slavery support for survivors at the university.

“We want our allies and the public to see us as more than traumatised people,” added Dang, a survivor-turned-activist who was enslaved by her parents and sold for sex throughout her childhood in the United States. “We are anti-slavery leaders.”

The online platform will enable survivors to connect with each other and experts and leaders in the anti-slavery field, and feature a referral service for consulting opportunities.

“There is a huge need to better support survivors, and ensure their voices and experiences inform and shape the global response to modern slavery,” Nick Grono, head of anti-slavery initative The Freedom Fund, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

From mapping slave labour from space to exploring links between trafficking and environmental destruction, the Rights Lab launched last year and united more than 100 academics from at least 15 disciplines to tackle slavery on multiple fronts.

The multi-million pound project aims to meet a U.N. global development goal of ending forced labour and slavery by 2030. (Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Jared Ferrie(Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)

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