Modern slavery does not exist in a vacuum; rather, it is a result of economic, social and political systems that perpetuate vulnerability and enable exploitation. It is no coincidence that slavery disproportionately impacts those experiencing oppression on the basis of their gender, caste, race, class, religion or other identities. Systemic discrimination leaves individuals and whole communities marginalised, impoverished and isolated. It prevents them from accessing the resources, information and services necessary to build power and resist exploitation. It also makes it much more difficult for individuals to exit situations of slavery, access justice and recover from trauma.
Combatting modern slavery is about advancing justice and equity in the world. We know that we cannot understand or dismantle systems of slavery without also addressing the underlying forms of oppression that leave people vulnerable. We also know that movements to end injustice are best created and led by those who are closest to the injustice. Our approach is built on the belief that by listening to, funding and supporting local organisations, we can contribute to tangible, sustainable change.
Our commitment to advancing equity extends to all levels of our work – from our hotspot programs to our research to our global initiatives. Before launching a hotspot, we employ local experts to map the landscape of exploitation and consult with local organisations, communities and survivors to understand their needs and perspectives. We then hire locally-based Program Advisors with deep experience to set up and manage hotspot programs.
As part of our partner selection process we require that all partners have anti-discrimination policies and prioritise organisations that are taking steps to advance equity in their work. We look for partners who actively hold themselves accountable to the communities they serve, both by consulting local stakeholders in program development and enabling program participants to provide feedback. Once selected, we support partners to take a systems-based approach to combatting modern slavery. Our program strategies, developed in collaboration with partners, focus both on supporting individuals and tackling root causes. This includes equipping marginalised communities to bring systemic change to social issues with direct links to exploitation, like harmful gender norms, caste-based discrimination and xenophobic views towards migrants.
We also believe we have a broader responsibility to support a more inclusive anti-slavery movement that is truly representative of those most affected. Our efforts to advance inclusion and diverse representation include Freedom Rising, a training and movement building program focused on resourcing and elevating underrepresented leaders.
Internally, we are committed to the ongoing journey of ensuring that our organisational structures, policies and culture align with our values of diversity, equity and inclusion. These efforts are led by a DEI Steering Committee consisting of staff from across the organisation and informed by input from our colleagues, Board and external experts.
We also acknowledge that the anti-trafficking movement has frequently silenced and excluded those with lived experience of exploitation. It is our responsibility to create an organisation that reflects what we want to see in the movement – representative leadership. We are committed to ensuring that survivors continue to be represented at each level of our work, including our senior leadership, Council of Advocates and Board. We have also partnered with survivor-led organisations to inform a number of areas of our work, including in launching a year-long fellowship program at our headquarters, providing individuals with lived experience an opportunity for career development and leadership. We continue to seek out new ways to hold ourselves accountable and centre the knowledge and expertise of survivors.