You Cannot Give from an Empty Cup: How One Anti-Trafficking Organization Centers Mental Health
This post is co-authored with staff from Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART).
It’s Thursday at 3 pm.
Like every Thursday afternoon, staff gather in a small conference room in Nairobi’s city center. Their casual chatter fades as the session’s facilitator enters. She smiles before she opens with her familiar greeting, “So, how do you feel?”
This meeting between staff and therapist has been a routine part of the HAART workweek for the last one year. Though not required, staff from all departments regularly attend. There is no formal structure or predetermined agenda. Rather, the sessions are just a way of checking in with staff, of making sure that they are ok.
The Global Fund may not be a direct service provider, but our partner Awareness Against Human Trafficking -HAART is. They have been supporting survivors of human trafficking in Kenya for over a decade- from basic needs support to psychosocial counseling to economic empowerment activities.
They work daily with girls, boys, men and women who have been abused or exploited and who are working to overcome that trauma. It’s rewarding and necessary work, for sure. But it can take a toll, and that toll can be greater than any even realize. As one member of the HAART team recalls, “I did not know I was experiencing secondary trauma, until during one of our debriefing sessions that I noticed I showed symptoms similar to those of post-traumatic stress disorder.”
While those who work directly with survivors understand the significance of mental health services for survivors, most give far less attention to their own mental wellbeing.
The daily stresses of the job are commonly overshadowed by the mission. For example, as HAART staff attest, direct service work is filled with uncertainties. “One-minute a survivor is okay, the next they are having suicidal ideation. You never know when you will receive a call for a rescue.” There is comfort in predictability. And uncertainty, especially when it is a constant, can create anxiety. But treating that anxiety is rarely top of mind when a survivor in your program is battling suicidal thoughts.
That anxiety is often exacerbated by an organization’s own limitations. There is only so much any one can do. HAART works with survivors to understand their needs and then tries to balance that with what the organization can provide.
While HAART provides counseling, training, economic assistance, school fees, health services, and legal aid to survivors, funds for victim assistance are very limited.
Staff often have to prioritize what kind of assistance to provide despite wanting to do more. And that too can be draining.
When these are your typical workday challenges- when hearing trafficking experiences recounted and watching the struggles of recovery is “just another day at the office,” mental health support must similarly be part of the job. At HAART, it is.
It’s quite admirable really to see how much emphasis HAART puts on staff mental wellbeing. Several years ago, after realizing that staff burnout was not tied to case load but to the nature of the work, HAART committed to doing more to make sure its staff were taking care of themselves, mentally and emotionally. They began small- organizing all staff hiking trips, moving office meetings outdoors, practicing yoga together. And, like all good practitioners, they listened to feedback and adapted to do better.
Since then, HAART has added two full-time mental health professionals to its team.
These professionals engage staff in group sessions, including weekly departmental-level check-ins, and provide one-on-one support for any staff who want it. There is no limit to how many sessions staff can access. Managers too keep regular meetings with their staff. Even when there’s not much to discuss, the check-ins say a lot. The opportunity to chat with a supervisor not just about work but about life helps staff “feel valued.”
Mental health is not just a focus at the top, though advice to take time off and turn off after work hours has certainly helped foster that culture. Staff have their own self-care routines; they journal, they swim, they meditate, some even make dance videos. But what’s more, particularly for the protection team, they each have an accountability partner- a person who holds them accountable for making sure self-care remains a priority.
It’s human life, and that’s a feeling of responsibility that doesn’t end with the work day.
Of course, there are times when even an accountability partner is not enough. And those days when it seems impossible to abide the best-laid guidance for mental wellbeing. As HAART staff are always aware, “it’s human life,” and that’s a feeling of responsibility that doesn’t end with the work day.
However, staff are more aware of the benefits of taking care of self- a consequence of embedding mental health in HAART’s workplace culture. Morale is higher, productivity is greater. Decision-making is easier. Knowing that the work requires quick response and that those responses impact the lives of survivors, staff report they are able to make decisions with more clarity and confidence. All of that matters, not just for staff but for all those they work with. And that is why HAART continues to prioritize mental health, for as they frequently remind each other, “You cannot give from an empty cup.”
COVID Revealed Just How Vulnerable Apparel Workers Are. Now What Do We Do About It?
Bangladesh has long been an epicenter for apparel production. Its garment industry is the second-largest in the world, behind only China. It accounts for about 84% of Bangladesh’s export revenue, and readymade garments account for almost 16% of the country’s GDP. It is home to some 4,000 factories and employs more than 4 million people. 4 out of five of these workers are women.
The cost of labor in Bangladesh apparel factories remains low, among the lowest by global standards. The Bangladeshi government raised the minimum wage for garment workers to 8,000 Tk or $95 USD per month in December 2018, the first increase in 5 years. In response, in January 2019, protestors took to the streets. Workers claimed the increase did not reflect the rising costs of living, and questioned how they were to sustain families and households on poverty wages.
Then, in 2020, a global pandemic hit.
At least $3 billion of orders were cancelled. More than 1 million workers- mostly women- were laid off or furloughed, representing a quarter of the workforce. Overseas apparel sales fell 18%. Recent data shows that fashion owes $16 billion in outstanding payments.
The numbers are stark, but what’s behind the numbers is even starker. For those working in Bangladesh’s apparel factories, especially those laboring in the informal economy to produce the “made in Bangladesh” tag, these numbers mean a very grim reality.
They mean that millions living on the margins were suddenly without an income. Most had little or no savings. And many were denied the legally mandated severance benefits to provide any cushion. Workers like Mr. Ali, a knit operator for 17 years owed over $4,000 USD in severance pay, hold out hope that “the money will come” but are so desperate to feed their families that they have contemplated suicide.
They mean that there are more children- school age boys and girls, some not yet 10 years old- in Bangladesh’s apparel factories, working to keep their families afloat.
COVID-19 is not the root cause of vulnerability but it has shown the world just how vulnerable apparel workers are.
They mean that expecting mothers and older workers are being terminated first because employers do not want to or cannot pay the benefits to which they are entitled.
They mean workers are putting up with more abuse in the workplace because they fear losing their jobs and their only source of income. Women workers, in particular, are reporting increased sexual harassment and verbal abuse.
They mean that, in some of the most vulnerable communities, 95% of households have less than a week of food supplies, and barely 3% are receiving any government aid. Mothers who work long days at the factory are undernourished, going without so that their children can eat.
The impact of COVID-19 on apparel workers in Bangladesh has been devastating, but the pandemic did not create worker vulnerabilities. Those laboring on the factory floor, under exploitative conditions for up to 12 hours a day, do so because they have few other employment options. They are often young, unskilled, and frequently women and migrants. They are vulnerable to forced labor due to poverty, the fragmented, informal nature of textile supply chains, and the lack of enforcement of legal protections for workers. COVID-19 is not the root cause of vulnerability, but it has shown the world just how vulnerable apparel workers are.
Informal Factories Operate in the Shadows, Leaving Workers Vulnerable
Since the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, when more than 1,100 people died in a garment factory collapse, labor standards have improved, at least in Bangladesh’s formal factories. Evidence shows better working conditions, more factory inspections and greater accountability. But, for those working in informal factories, the risks of exploitation remain high.
“The informal economy is characterized by one central feature: it is unregulated by the institutions of society, in a legal and social environment in which similar activities are regulated.” In other words, there is little government or corporate oversight, meaning factory owners often have limited awareness or knowledge about labor laws; they operate with little consequence for violating laws and little support to improve working conditions.
Some of the worst labor practices are clustered in the informal economy. Informality is associated with lower and less regular incomes, inadequate and unsafe working conditions, extreme job precarity and exclusion from social security schemes, among other factors. A recent study estimates that as many as 3 million Bangladesh workers producing ready-made garments (RMGs) fall outside the scope of any labor monitoring programs.
Worker Survey Gives Voice to Hidden Workers
To give voice to these invisible workers and increase transparency in the RMG sector, we partnered with ELEVATE to deploy a worker survey in Keraniganj and Narayanganj, two of Bangladesh’s key informal apparel production hubs. A relatively low-tech tool, the survey does not require a respondent to be literate or even own a smartphone. Rather, workers anonymously answer a series of multiple-choice questions by pressing a number on their mobile phone’s keypad using voice response technology. During the weeks after responding to the survey, workers then received a series of informational/educational messages informing them of their rights. In instances where child labor or risk of forced labor was identified, referral operators followed-up to link workers to support services such as skills building activities and/or education. While giving voice to a hidden population, this project not only identified exploitation in informal apparel factories, but supported workers to remove from exploitative conditions.
The results of the worker survey revealed high rates of child labor –higher than expected and much higher compared to the formal sector. Poverty, exacerbated by the pandemic, pushed most children into factory jobs. Nearly 9 out of 10 working children reported migrating to the cities for work in the informal sector to be able to support their families’ income. Most of these children live in the nearby slums within walking distance of their workplace. Most had never attended school or were forced to drop out. Children are especially vulnerable to exploitation. Anecdotal evidence shows that employers prefer to engage children because they are more easily convinced to work longer hours for less money. Many children are unaware of their rights and thus less likely to protest when those rights are violated.
What to do with these findings? With the Fund’s support, ELEVATE partnered with three local organizations to provide educational and support services to identified victims of child labor. Each of these three organizations- Bangladesh Labour Foundation (BLF), LEEDO, and Community Participation and Development (CPD) – have experience in these two high-risk areas and in implementing educational programs. Each adapted their curriculum and program offerings in response to student needs.
BLF, for example, amended its traditional curriculum to include Bangla language, mathematics, and English, as these were the courses that young workers most requested. CPD, focused on building technical and vocational skills, enabled students to select a program based on their needs and interest. While some preferred to hone skills relevant to the garment industry, others, especially the younger students, were most interested in learning generic trades to improve their future employability and personal self-development. LEEDO, an organization that runs informal schools for street children, primarily targeted children under the age of 14, complementing their curriculum with recreational activities such as Carom Board, Ludo, and gaming.
Of the children who attended these schools, some have left the factory. They have returned to their villages and enrolled in school. Yeasin*, just 9 years old when his father’s injury forced him to quit school and start working, found time to attend one of BLF’s programs in between work shifts. Finding Yeasin eager to exit the factory and continue studying, BLF reached out to his father. Yeasin returned to his family and is now enrolled in the government school in his village.
Other children have moved on to better jobs or better wages. 14-year old Joshin* left school to work in a garment factory after COVID-19 pushed his family into financial crisis. For his labor, he was provided three meals a day, but no wages. After studying English, Bengali, and mathematics as a student in LEEDO’s School under the Sky program- courses that helped him excel in his daily work- Joshin found work in another factory. In his new position, Joshin earns wages that are helping support his family. He expects to earn a promotion soon.
Education is only part of the solution. Reducing vulnerability means changing systems
Educational programs and skills training play an important role in providing children an alternative to working in informal factories, but they are not the solution. Nor is any one program. To ensure children are kept out of factories, we need to address whole systems. This means engaging governments to legislate and enforce labor reform; engaging businesses to change exploitative labor practices; raising awareness to prevent child exploitation; enhancing access to social protection benefits to build financial security; and creating sustainable livelihood options so that mothers, fathers, boys, and girls are not forced into exploitative working conditions.
The Global Fund supports numerous projects to reduce forced and child labor in Bangladesh’s informal factories. In addition to the worker voice survey and the educational programs that resulted, we support research to identify gaps in existing legislation and we recommend specific actions for policy and law enforcement groups, government officials, and brand representatives to take to end forced labor. We invest in the development of innovative tools to help brands, buyers, and suppliers prevent, detect, and remediate forced labor in their operations. The Fair Capacity Platform, for example, helps businesses plan their production capacity better, reducing the probability that they resort to subcontracting or excessive overtime to meet unrealistic order deadlines.
The garment industry is a central pillar of the Bangladesh economy, and so are the millions of men, women, and children who sustain it. The outbreak of a global pandemic showed the world just how vulnerable these workers are, especially those laboring in the informal sector. It also reinforced our commitment to reducing that vulnerability.
If you are interested in partnering with us to end forced and child labor in the apparel sector, please reach out.
*Names in this blog have been changed to protect identities. The legal age of employment in Bangladesh is 14.
Apparel I Bangladesh
During follow-up, many children said they couldn’t afford to quit their jobs, or even reduce their workload to participate in the educational programs being offered, despite expressing interest. For some children, engaging in part-time learning could compromise the source of income that their families depend on. Based on findings from the worker voice survey and real-time feedback from children whom the survey engaged, ELEVATE developed the following guidance for governments, donors, civil society, or private sector actors:
- Efforts to provide education or remediation services to working children must assume that children will not or cannot immediately leave their jobs and should accommodate their work schedules (e.g. by offering part-time courses)
- Educational and support services should offer income-replacement stipends or allowances and provision of social safety net services to convince children and their families to enroll in the programs, and eventually transition into the mainstream education system.
- Referral services should target working children as well as their families. Lack of awareness regarding the negative effects of child labor contributes to decisions that put children in factories.
- Programs aimed at reducing child labor should engage other actors such as factory owners, trade union leaders, and the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishment to eliminate child labor.
Making Modern Slavery Prevalence Studies Count (Accurately)
GFEMS recently funded a prevalence study in Karamoja, Uganda to determine the proportion of children in households (age 12-17) who have been sexually exploited for commercial gain. Although analysis is on-going, the data indicate that the prevalence of commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in Karamoja is gender agnostic. In other words, there is no statistically significant difference between the proportion of boys and girls that have experienced sexual exploitation. This runs counter to conventional thinking in the field of modern slavery (as well as a large body of evidence) that girls are more often victims of CSEC than boys (though researchers acknowledge that less is known about the scope and nature of CSEC among boys).
So why are boys in Karamoja more vulnerable to CSEC? Why do findings in Karamoja seem to contradict those of other studies?
The scope and nature of modern slavery varies greatly by geography and socio-economic context, so one simple answer could be that the region is an outlier. Another consideration is that this is the first study of CSEC in Uganda to use probabilistic sampling. Previous studies have used convenience sampling, meaning that results are not representative of the population. Another possible cause (and the focus of this blog) could be the study’s use of Audio Computer-Assisted Self-Interviewing (ACASI). This interviewing tool is new to the field of modern slavery prevalence estimation and may address some long-standing challenges related to response accuracy.
While prevalence estimations are critical to understanding the scale and scope of modern slavery, ensuring their accuracy is inherently difficult. Prevalence estimates are derived from large-scale surveys in which social desirability bias (respondents’ conscious and unconscious desire to answer in a socially desirable way) presents a significant challenge. Respondents are asked about their involvement in what are considered culturally taboo and often illegal activities. In the case of this study, we are asking children from conservative, rural communities about sexual acts. The survey inquires on the exchange of sex for money, third party facilitation of sex acts, and sexual violence; concepts which are generally considered inappropriate to discuss with adults, even more so unknown survey enumerators.
While there are no perfect solutions that ensure response accuracy to sensitive questions, ACASI offers an alternative approach to traditional face-to-face interviews (FFI), enabling respondents to share information independently and without having to directly engage with an interviewer. This additional degree of response confidentiality helps to reduce social desirability bias and can ultimately produce better estimates
Audio Computer-Assisted Self-Interviewing (ACASI): How It Works
The most sensitive questions of the prevalence survey were grouped into a tablet-based, self-administered ACASI module. When the interviewer reaches this module, a tablet and a pair of headphones are given to the child respondent. The interviewer explains how the module will work and that the answers are completely confidential. Following this explanation, the tablet-based software guides the child through an interactive training. The training shows the prompts and images that will be used and explains how to proceed through the module (2). The child must provide responses that show comprehension before proceeding to the module.
Once the module begins, the child hears an audio recording of each question. Potential answers are associated with neutral images on the screen and the child is instructed to select the image that corresponds with his or her answer. The child then clicks on an icon to proceed to the next question (3).
Have you done sexual things in exchange for you or someone else receiving anything like money, a place to stay, food, gifts or favors?
Touch the green drum if your answer is “yes.”
Touch the red tree if your answer is “no.”
How well do your caregivers know your friends?
Touch the GREEN bowl if they know them “very well.”
Touch the BLUE bowl if they know them “somewhat well.”
Touch the YELLOW bowl if they know them “not very well.”
Touch the RED bowl if they don’t know them at all.
Once the child is finished with the module, he or she hands the headphones and the tablet back to the interviewer, and they continue with the rest of the questionnaire. The interviewer will not be able to access a child’s answers after they are recorded.
ACASI is adapted from the public health field where it’s widely used to gather data on sensitive topics like drug use and sexual risk behavior (4). Several studies indicate that ACASI can serve to reduce social desirability bias in survey responses. For example, a study of injecting drug users (IDU) in Sydney, Australia asked respondents a series of 5 questions relating to injecting and sexual behavior that could induce social desirability bias. These questions were first administered via FFI, then readministered to the same respondents within a week using ACASI. Researchers then measured the extent of discordance (i.e. difference) between the two response sets. The study found that FFI yielded what could be considered more socially desirable responses than ACASI. This includes a statistically significant higher mean age of first injection, a lower prevalence of recent syringe sharing, and a longer duration since the last occurrence of unprotected sex (5). Even more telling is that respondents who reported a history of sex work were more likely than other respondents to provide discordant responses on the duration since last occurrence of unprotected sex (42% vs 25% x2= 4.56, p<0.05).
To our knowledge, this prevalence study is the first time ACASI has been applied to the field of modern slavery, and more research is required to determine if it’s effect on social desireability bias will transfer across fields. However, we suspect that the use of ACASI is a contributing factor to our unique findings. CSEC buyers tend to be male, so in a conservative culture (like Karamojong) where homosexuality is not commonly accepted, there is likely a greater reluctance for boys to admit to sexual exploitation than girls. We believe the use of ACASI helped to mitigate this reluctance, leading to more accurate responses. This, in turn, revealed that CSEC in the region is as commonplace for boys as it is for girls.
Although many challenges remain to ensuring the response accuracy of prevalence studies, ACASI represents a new and promising tool as GFEMS, its research partners, and like-minded organizations continue to expand the boundaries of modern slavery prevalence estimation. We encourage other CSEC and modern slavery researchers to employ ACASI, and if possible, test it experimentally. Doing so can provide us with greater insights into the efficacy of this tool and how to apply it optimally. This, in turn, can ultimately provide us with a more accurate and nuanced understanding of modern slavery and the socio-economic drivers that underpin it.
GFEMS looks forward to continuing to share our learnings with the anti-trafficking community. For updates on this project and others like it, subscribe to our newsletter, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.
- This study was conducted by ICF and Makerere University and made possible with funding from the Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP) under the Program to End Modern Slavery 2 (PEMS 2).
- These images and prompts are also presented and explained to the child during the interviewer-administered portion of the survey using showcards to ensure that he or she understands how to proceed through the module.
- A small-scale pilot test of children aged 12-17 was conducted to assess developmental appropriateness and the ability to train children to use the instrument, and the social workers from Karamoja provided input into the cultural relevance of the shapes and colors.
- Willis, Gordon B, Alia Al-Tayyib, and Susan Rogers. 2001. “The Use of Touch-Screen ACASI in a High-Risk Population: Implications for Surveys Involving Sensitive Questions.” In Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the American Statistical Association, 6; Falb, K., Tanner, S., Asghar, K. et al. Implementation of Audio-Computer Assisted Self-Interview (ACASI) among adolescent girls in humanitarian settings: feasibility, acceptability, and lessons learned. Confl Health 10, 32 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13031-016-0098-1; Villarroel, Maria A., Charles F. Turner, Elizabeth Eggleston, Alia Al-Tayyib, Susan M. Rogers, Anthony M. Roman, Philip C. Cooley, and Harper Gordek. 2006. “Same-Gender Sex in the United States Impact of T-Acasi on Prevalence Estimates.” Public Opinion Quarterly 70 (2): 166–96.
- M. Mofizul Islam , Libby Topp , Katherine M. Conigrave , Ingrid van Beek , Lisa Maher , Ann White, Craig Rodgers & Carolyn A. Day (2012): The reliability of sensitive information provided by injecting drug users in a clinical setting: Clinician-administered versus audio computer-assisted self-interviewing (ACASI), AIDS Care: Psychological and Socio-medical Aspects of AIDS/HIV, 24:12, 1496-1503.
Driving Financial Sector Innovation in the Global Strategy to End Modern Slavery
The Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS) is pleased to share the expansion of our Global Finance portfolio to include an initiative focused on use of new payment technologies and virtual currencies by traffickers.
This initiative will evaluate new payment technologies and virtual currencies tied to online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC), determine how to identify these transactions, and develop forensic techniques for investigating the illicit financial flows to traffickers. Building on the Fund’s recent work with partners in the Philippines and the UK to identify and disrupt financial flows tied to online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC), these initiatives are designed to drive development of solutions with potential to be replicated globally.
Mobilizing the financial sector is a critical component in the Fund’s comprehensive strategy. The financial sector has tremendous potential to drive systemic change and play a key role in making modern slavery economically unprofitable.
Beginning in 2018, when GFEMS CEO Dr. Jean Baderschneider served as a commissioner on the Liechtenstein Financial Sector Commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking and building off the efforts of the ensuing FAST Initiative, GFEMS has accelerated its investment in financial sector innovation and partnerships. To-date, GFEMS has committed over 1 million USD in funding to its Global Finance initiatives.
This Global Finance portfolio is strategically designed to leverage and integrate diverse funding streams, driving innovation and more effectively mobilizing the financial sector.
One component of the Fund’s financial sector strategy is leveraging the power of responsible investors to drive meaningful, sustainable actions by companies to address forced labor risks in supply chains. For companies to take meaningful action, they first need actionable insights on forced labor risks in their supply chains. However, existing forced labor risk assessment tools have largely been too qualitative or inexact to inform targeted and effective risk mitigation efforts.
To address this, GFEMS has developed an award winning forced labor screening tool that predicts the risk of forced labor at the firm level using operational features like the number of known trade partners, financial information, and geography. The Fund intends to release the prototype open source for investors, supply chain management platforms, and NGO watchdogs to further develop and integrate into their own platforms, elevating the issue of forced labor in due diligence and procurement. This effort is key to ultimately mobilizing trillions in private sector procurement and ESG investment to sustainably address forced labor.
The Fund also leverages the expertise and analytics capabilities of the financial sector to improve efforts to identify and disrupt illicit financial flows to traffickers. As part of this workstream, GFEMS kicked off the Cross Industry Data Initiative (CIDI) in early 2020. Working with The Knoble and SAS, the Initiative convenes financial crime professionals, financial institutions, law enforcement experts, and NGOs in a series of working groups to address data-sharing challenges and build partnerships necessary to implement solutions.
We look forward to sharing future updates about our growing Global Finance portfolio and partnerships. Together we can create and implement actionable solutions for ending modern slavery.
Have an idea for innovative finance?
World Day Against Trafficking Roundup: What leaders are saying
Today, World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, GFEMS is sharing insights from global anti-trafficking leaders with our global community. We asked a series of leaders to answer one of the following three questions:
- What does the World Day Against TIP mean to you? What do you hope to see accomplished?
- 2020 has been a year unlike any other. Why is this year’s day against TIP especially important?
- How should people at home recognize the World Day Against TIP? What are some appropriate and effective actions to support the cause?
Here’s what they had to say:
NEELAM CHHIBER, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, INDUSTREE CRAFTS FOUNDATION
“In a year of acute financial distress with regards to incomes in rural India, the Day against TIP takes on additional importance, as it’s a call for action to support endeavours that can mitigate these risks and save futures for the most vulnerable. “
SHAWN HOLTZCLAW, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE KNOBLE
“The Knoble is a growing network of fraud, cyber, fintech, and financial crime professionals with a passion for protecting vulnerable populations, particularly those at risk for human trafficking. We proudly partner with and support the organizations and individuals who act as first responders. We join them in envisioning a world where no one can profit off the suffering of other human beings, and we seek to create system-wide networks to disrupt the illicit flow of money through the world’s financial systems.”
ZOE TRODD, DIRECTOR OF RIGHTS LAB, UNIVERSITY OF NOTTINGHAM
“The pandemic that began in 2020 will have short, medium and long term impacts on the problem of human trafficking and modern slavery. This year’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons is an opportunity to highlight the resilience and efforts of the anti-trafficking community as it works to mitigate the new and increased risks for victims, survivors and vulnerable populations created by COVID-19. The community’s many new ways of working during this pandemic will lead to policy and practice innovations that, longer-term, will mean great leaps forward in our shared goal of ending trafficking and slavery.”
SUSAN OPLE, FOUNDER, BLAS F. OPLE POLICY CENTER AND TRAINING INSTITUTE
“I hope to see a continuation, if not an escalation, in global conversations about modern slavery amid and beyond this pandemic. I wish to see a stronger push towards technology-driven tools to combat slavery similar to the newly-launched Integrated Case Management System that we have in the Philippines. And, finally, I hope that States will ensure the safety, rights, and protection of migrants around the world especially of foreign domestic workers.”
NICK GRONO, CEO, THE FREEDOM FUND
“As lockdowns were imposed around the world, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has placed an enormous strain on already highly vulnerable communities. The resulting economic fallout has placed people who are at high risk of exploitation even more at risk. Families will be forced to take ever more desperate decisions, high-interest loans and risky job offers. There is no question that the pandemic and the economic crisis it has caused will lead to an increase in trafficking. This year it will be critical for all organisations that work to combat slavery and trafficking to adjust their longer-term programs to this new reality.”
ABHA THORAT-SHAH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BRITISH ASIAN TRUST
“There are increasing concerns that the economic cost imposed on the world due to COVID and the lockdowns could exacerbate vulnerabilities in the most marginalized sections of society. And this can have outsized consequences on the safety and security of children – they might become easier targets for traffickers preying on the economic desperation of families who have lost their livelihoods or taken loans they can’t pay back. This is why in 2020, TIP is more critical than ever, to remind us that there are invisible victims of this pandemic that go beyond the obvious, and our focus on them needs to be redoubled.”
DANIEL NEALE, SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION LEAD, WORLD BENCHMARKING ALLIANCE
“Discuss the issue at home and recognise the scale of the problem, with tens of millions of people suffering in forced labour. Secondly, look out for and report suspicious activity that might be linked to modern slavery and trafficking. Thirdly, dig into your favourite brands and see how they do regarding forced labour and mapping their supply chains. If a company scores badly – consider using the huge power of your wallet to support companies who are doing more to deal with this issue.”
AMY RAHE, INTERIM DIRECTOR NORTH AMERICA, THE FREEDOM FUND
“For me, the World Day Against TIP is a reminder that we have a lot more work ahead of us to accomplish our goals of eradicating modern slavery. I hope that this day becomes an annual day of remembrance for those lost to modern slavery and for the atrocities of the past. We have to end all forms of modern slavery. Until we do, I hope the day is one of many motivations for us, as a global community, to work tirelessly towards every individual’s access to freedom.”
ASHIF SHAIKH, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, JAN SAHAS SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT SOCIETY
“COVID-19 has exacerbated the risk of debt-induced trafficking for the economically vulnerable and marginalised populations across the globe. This year’s World Day Against TIP highlights the much-required collaboration between society, governments, private sector, NGOs, philanthropies, and media to ensure that every individual lives a dignified life that is free of trafficking and exploitation. It is essential that empathy and equity be the guiding values so that a brighter future can be envisaged in the new normal.”
JAMES COCKAYNE, HEAD OF SECRETARIAT, FINANCE AGAINST TRAFFICKING AND SLAVERY
“Traffickers make $150 billion each year from the forced labour of their victims. That forced labour makes things for the supply chains of companies we invest in through stock markets and pension funds, and the profits go into the banking system. So ask yourself, your bank, your broker or your retirement asset manager: Are we unwittingly funding human trafficking?”
RUTH FREEDOM POJMAN, GLOBAL ANTI-TRAFFICKING EXPERT
“It is fitting to see that in 2020 the UN will focus on ‘first responders to human trafficking’ to recognize the frontline folks who counsel, provide support, help victims to access remedy, and help survivors to heal, to re-gain confidence and to re-integrate sustainably over the long term. It is amazing to witness the dedication of those assisting victims during this time of COVID-19 to overcome challenging restrictions. While it is tragic that almost 17 million have been directly and millions more indirectly affected by COVID, it is heartening during these dark times to see how people do their part against the odds.”
MATHIEU LUCIANO, HEAD OF ASSISTANCE TO VULNERABLE MIGRANTS, INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION ON MIGRATION
“World Day always reminds me how much more needs to be done to protect everyone, everywhere, from human trafficking. This year, many migrants have been hit hard by COVID-19, and many more will become vulnerable to exploitation as the economic consequences of the pandemic unfold. While most migrants will continue to show extraordinary resilience, we must redouble our efforts to ensure that nobody is left behind.”
JEAN BADERSCHNEIDER, CEO AND CHAIR OF THE BOARD, GLOBAL FUND TO END MODERN SLAVERY
“This is a day to renew our commitment to global coordination and to rededicate ourselves to creating a coherent global strategy that includes governments, businesses, the financial sector, NGOs, and civil society in a way that brings the full force of the world down on traffickers to end this crime once and for all. Let’s forge partnerships, collaborate openly, share results freely, and knit together a real anti-slavery movement. We at the Fund are in this fight with you!”
GFEMS Launches “Future in Training — Hospitality” Survivor Employability Pilot
A major theme in the recommendations from the 2019 U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking’s Report is the need for additional resources dedicated to assistance in gaining and maintaining employment for underserved populations like survivors of human trafficking. While lack of specialized employment support is not a new problem and similar recommendations have been made in the past, few resources exist for survivors to gain the necessary skills or training to succeed in obtaining meaningful and decent work.
This International Women’s Day, GFEMS is pleased to announce the pilot launch of the “Future in Training (FIT) Hospitality” Survivor Employability Curriculum, in partnership with Marriott International.
Developed by GFEMS and Marriott over the past two years, the first-ever FIT curriculum focuses on hospitality. It is the Fund’s first program in the United States and is aimed specifically at providing training and resources for survivors seeking careers in the hospitality sector. Marriott’s partnership with GFEMS is part of the company’s human rights goals, which include training 100% of on-property hotel workers in human trafficking awareness. To date, the company has trained over 700,000 hotel workers,
The FIT Hospitality pilot will be implemented with the support of the University of Maryland Safe Center (UMD Safe Center) in the Washington, DC metro area. Through this program, GFEMS will provide survivors with an introduction to hospitality and tools for employability in the sector using a multi-disciplinary curriculum encouraging dynamic engagement. The first-phase of the pilot will test implementation and knowledge gained to inform further enhancements and the need for post-curriculum follow-up services, such as application assistance or career mentoring. Pilot participants will also benefit from transportation and child care support that mitigate known barriers to survivor career training.
GFEMS anticipates several learning outcomes following the FIT Hospitality pilot. GFEMS will support identification and monitoring of the barriers survivors face in trying to gain training and aim to understand the adequate level of support survivors need while participating. Ultimately, GFEMS seeks to gain a better understanding of the type of assistance survivors need to gain meaningful employment and implement that knowledge into the FIT curriculum and other programming; the Fund aims to create customized assistance that meets the needs of survivors.
The pilot will provide valuable insights for GFEMS as it continues to build its portfolio within one of its key pillars, Sustaining Freedom for survivors. As GFEMS continues to grow and build new programs globally, livelihood training programs in various industries and sectors that both equip survivors with necessary skills and prevent at-risk populations from entering risky situations remain a priority. Insights from the FIT Hospitality pilot, along with other planned research, will inform new FIT programming in additional sectors for sustained freedom in the US and abroad.
Following the pilot’s implementation, GFEMS looks forward to sharing the insights gained and plans for future implementation. The Fund is grateful for the partnership and support of Marriott and UMD Safe Center, and is excited to continue our commitment to empowering survivors.
The Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS) is a bold international fund catalyzing a coherent global strategy to end human trafficking by making it economically unprofitable. With leadership from government and the private sector around the world, the Fund is escalating resources, designing public-private partnerships, funding new tools and methods for sustainable solutions, and assessing impact to better equip our partners to scale and replicate solutions in new geographies.
Reflections on the Past Decade: 10 years of National Human Trafficking Prevention Month
A decade after the inaugural National Human Trafficking Prevention Month in the United States, first enacted by President Obama in 2010, the fight against trafficking continues with the goal of ending modern slavery and human trafficking for good.
The landscape of this fight has transformed significantly and in positive ways. Among some of the successes in the US context are the establishment of the survivor-led United States Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, increased funding for anti-trafficking through the creation of the Program to End Modern Slavery (PEMS), and an emerging cohesion around building the evidence base on what works to end trafficking in persons.
Centering the voices of survivors through the U.S. Advisory Council is an especially significant development. At the Fund, one of our top organizational values is to Learn Continuously, striving to seek out the “knowledge and perspectives of others, especially those of whom we seek to serve and empower.” Survivors are consulted in the design of our programs and regular feedback mechanisms will soon be implemented to ensure our funding assists the intended communities. GFEMS views this as a critical element in the achievement of our mission. Expanded efforts by the US Government, such as the Advisory Council, ensure programming is survivor-informed and will help efforts across advocacy and awareness, prevention, and rescue and reintegration to result in more effective, safe, and relevant interventions.
In its most recent report, the Advisory Council recommended four areas of necessary action:
- Increasing awareness of survivor- and trauma-informed practices among U.S. government staff.
- Building and supporting networks of survivors to provide training, technical assistance, and capacity building to U.S. government agencies and their grantees.
- Increaing public awareness of all forms of human trafficking, including labor trafficking.
- Expanding grantmaking efforts that address all forms of human trafficking and offer services and protection for all victims/survivors no matter their age, gender, creed, race, or sexual orientation.
While GFEMS does not currently implement programs in the US, we have integrated these recommendations– along with suggestions from other survivor-led alliances– into our operations. Our programs, including some funded by the PEMS program, are equipping institutional stakeholders to provide survivor- and trauma-informed care. Our partners must demonstrate how survivor input informs their project and share how survivor-leaders will be empowered through their activities. The Fund’s programs go beyond raising awareness to targeted behavior-change communications. Similarly, the Fund’s portfolio of grants span a diverse group of subrecipients to ensure varied demographics and types of trafficking are addressed.
The PEMS program, of which GFEMS was the first award recipient, represents a significant effort by the U.S. Government to expand grantmaking efforts that address all forms of trafficking. Under its PEMS award, the Fund launched programs across Rule of Law, Business Engagement, and Sustained Freedom for survivors. These programs are a new opportunity to build transformative programs and dig deep into the drivers of modern slavery in multiple sectors and geographies, discovering what really works to end modern slavery sustainably. These resources have allowed GFEMS to develop and test solutions with partners– as well as invest in evidence and learning– to address different parts of the systems perpetuating modern slavery.
While there is still a lot to achieve, the progress the anti-TIP community has made over the past decade are steps in the right direction. Organizations are finally, and rightfully, amplifying survivor voices. Stakeholders, including GFEMS, are working collaboratively together to fill the evidence gaps in the field. This shift in emphasis to gathering actionable, rigorous, and accurate data will lead to improved interventions for GFEMS, as well as the field at large, and improve evidence-informed policy at the government level.
Over the next decade, GFEMS looks forward to building on the momentum of progress made thus far, investing in transformative programs to reduce the prevalence of slavery, and working in partnership with others to make slavery economically unprofitable.