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Fostering Community Resistance and Resilience Against Modern Day Forms of Slavery

Karen Stauss, Director of Programs at Free the SlavesKaren Stauss, Director of Programs at Free the Slaves.By Patricia Kingkeo, Anti-trafficking Health Policy Intern

“Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.” – Frederick Douglass

August marks the second month of the 2014 Administration for Children and Families Frontline Speaker Series aimed at educating and empowering Health and Human Services staff to respond to modern day forms of slavery. Every month until January and then quarterly thereafter, advocates, service providers, and researchers will present their experiences combating human trafficking.

The month’s guest speaker is Karen Stauss, director of programs at Free the Slaves. FTS is a non-profit organization dedicated to the eradication of slavery worldwide using frontline community-based projects in some of the most affected countries to transform the economic, social and political systems that allow slavery to persist. The six countries FTS currently operates in include India, Nepal, Ghana, Congo, Haiti and Brazil—countries in which more than half of the world’s slaves live.

A Community-Based Model

On Aug. 5, Stauss presented approaches to building community resistance against slavery and measuring programmatic impact. FTS employs a unique community-based model to reduce vulnerabilities and liberate those already enslaved. The four strategies presented are as follows:

  1. Conduct Contextual Research: Conducting research provides a better understanding of the magnitude and dynamics of slavery within which change is to take place. The identification of specific vulnerabilities and pathways to slavery allows programs to intervene and meet local needs more effectively.
  2. Increase Organizational Capacity: Strengthening the organizational capacity of grassroots organizations, non-governmental organizations, government agencies, advocacy coalitions, and international organizations is integral to achieving long-term and sustainable solutions.
  3. Foster Community Resistance and Resilience: Fostering community resistance and resilience mitigates vulnerabilities within communities and allows at-risk communities to resist slavery. Education, access to needed services, legal protection, and collective action results political advocacy, organized communities, and behavior change.
  4. Sustained Reduction in Slavery: Reducing the prevalence of slavery should be the result of effective community resistance and resilience. Evaluation of impact rests on measurable outcomes and outputs to inform future programs and effective practices.

Fostering Community Resistance 

Within each of the six countries FTS operates in, slavery can exist in many forms—whether it is the debt bondage of laborers in farms, brick kilns, quarries, and embroidery factories in India; the servitude of maids, circus performers, and sex slaves in Nepal; or the exploitation of laborers in the fishing industry, mines, and plantations of Congo, Haiti, and Brazil.

In the United States, slavery can exist in hotels, massage parlors, casinos, escort services, strip clubs, pornography, truck stops, residential brothels, and street prostitution as commercial sexual exploitation. It can exist within traveling sales crews, domestic work, agriculture, construction, cleaning and maintenance, and hospitality and service occupations as labor trafficking.

The abuse of human rights is the same regardless of where slavery takes place. The commodification of a person strips an individual of what it means to be human. There is no one-size fits all solution to ending slavery. However, fostering community rights, resistance, and resilience can increase protective factors against trafficking. Stauss describes communities within which slavery and trafficking were accepted as part of a “normal” life. After implementing rights education in some of these communities, she discloses, “It is shockingly fast how a person can learn and embrace human rights.”

Programs at ACF work with runaway and homeless youth, indigenous populations, lesbian, gay, transsexual, and questioning youth, refugees and immigrants, abused and maltreated children, and low-income families and individuals to protect vulnerable and underserved populations in the U.S. We must challenge our communities to be aware of trafficking and empower them to defend their rights. Within all of these communities—whether in the United States, India, Nepal, Ghana, Congo, Haiti, or Brazil, the ultimate goal is the eventual eradication of slavery. To free the slaves, is to provide hope for those who are most in need of it.

Our next speaker will be Tina Frundt, founder and executive director of Courtney’s House. The seminar will take place Monday, Sept. 8 from noon to 1 p.m. EST. A brief stress reduction exercise will be given at the end of session led by Brian Richmond from the ACF Staff Wellness Team.

For more information about human trafficking, visit ACF’s End Trafficking Resources.

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