Skip to 0 minutes and 15 seconds What do we know? If we want to look at the themes, what do we have to do to make sure people can go from slavery to freedom, and to make sure that that’s a durable freedom, a freedom that sticks? Yeah, yeah. I mean, there are times when you just have to break down doors and get people out. There’s– there’s no doubt about that. Sometimes that has to happen. But we found that that’s not so helpful for them in terms of their long term. It sounds simplistic, but basically people need two things.
Skip to 0 minutes and 47 seconds One is that they need to know, over a period of time, that what is happening to them is wrong and it’s illegal and they– that they can get some support in that. So that’s one thing, is a change of attitude, that what’s happening to them is not normal. It’s not right. And then the other thing is they need to know, how am I going to survive? If I come out of this situation, what will my income be? Who will look after me? Where will I live? And unless you’ve got convincing answers– and usually, they have to come up with those answers as a group themselves. If you haven’t got those answers, their freedom won’t be durable. They won’t stay free.
Skip to 1 minute and 30 seconds So whatever program you’ve got has got to answer those things. Sometimes it’s about land rights. Sometimes it’s about a new kind of income. Sometimes it’s about doing what they were doing, because they know how to do it, but doing it in freedom. For themselves. For themselves. With a legal lease to mine in a particular– Exactly. And maybe even pay taxes on, which the criminals, slaveholders have never done. Yeah. So I mean, for example, in Kathmandu, where we’re working right now, we’re trying to identify what are the key paths out for the under 18-year-olds who just do not want to be in commercial sexual exploitation in cabin restaurants, massage parlors, dance bars.
Skip to 2 minutes and 13 seconds If they want to come out, what do they need and what’s the top priority for them? And that involves a lot of counseling, a lot of support, and then making sure that there is a shelter place for them, that they can get back into education, or get into education. And then there’s the question of, can they go home again? And often, they can’t. Because they’re stigmatized by their community? Yeah. If their community knows that this has been their situation, it’s just too– They’re damaged goods and not acceptable back in the– that’s heartbreaking. Yeah. So this leads me, though, to wonder, are there, in a sense, two large categories of enslaved people?
Skip to 2 minutes and 54 seconds Those who are, in a sense, born into slavery, who are in hereditary forms of slavery, or who come to it very young, who have to really understand, to come to grasp what freedom might mean for them. As opposed to older people, say teenagers or young people in their– in their 20s who are caught up in slavery, who are sometimes lured, given offers of jobs, and find that in fact the job turns into a situation of slavery. So would you say there are– there could be two broad categories of people who have to learn what freedom is, and those who know what it is, but at the moment, can’t quite reach it, because they’ve ended up in a situation of slavery?
Skip to 3 minutes and 37 seconds Do those people have to be treated differently in the project work? So I mean, what I’ve seen is that there is a huge difference between people who have known freedom and people that were born into slavery. So I mean, if you think about someone who’s taken as, say, a domestic worker at the age of six or seven, and may have come from a very deprived family, they may never have experienced what it is to make a choice. So then you say, oh, you’re free, but they’ve never made decisions in their whole life. They’ve always been told what to do next, when to get up, what they needed to do. So that’s a huge difference.
Skip to 4 minutes and 17 seconds And then if you think about, say, a 20-year-old man in Brazil who’s been taken off into the middle of the rain forest and given a chainsaw and, you know, required to pull down the forest– He thinks he’s getting a job. Yeah. But in fact, he’s being enslaved, once he’s out in the boondocks, way out in the forest. Yes, exactly. And he then enters debt bondage. And he’ll do that for three months, six months. But he knows he’s in trouble. He knows it isn’t supposed to be like that. But where does he go? Who does he turn to? And then when he gets free– or is dumped, right? He gets back to his home area and the next recruiter comes along.
Skip to 5 minutes and 2 seconds Very hard for him to know, is it going to be the same as that, or is this going to be a proper job? But at least that experience of choice– so then, if you can help him to have some other means of income that’s steady, you haven’t necessarily got all of that brain work to do to help him to manage his own freedom. So there’s there is a huge difference.
Skip to 5 minutes and 25 seconds Oh, that’s– so, we’ve talked about, for example, that village in northern India, and how, over a series of years, they’ve gone through a process of preparing for liberation, actually taking the step of reaching for freedom– a step that probably had a bit of danger in it, because the slaveholders don’t want their slaves to get away from them. Which is why it has to be their decision and not yours, as the helper, right? And then afterwards, they begin to prepare themselves in other ways, in income generation and so forth. So it worked out for that group. But, you know, there’s only, what, a few hundred people at most in that village?
Skip to 6 minutes and 3 seconds And we have millions of people in the world in slavery. How are we going to scale up what we know about how people can come out of slavery? How are we going to scale that up? Yeah. Well, I mean, there’s a couple of things with that. I think you scale it up by enabling the government in all these contexts to do its job. And its job is not just about rescuing people, but it’s all of those network of welfare supports that should be working, but that are often corrupted. So part of the way that partners that we work with scale up is enabling those supports to be there.
Skip to 6 minutes and 42 seconds So it’s not like we have to bring every pound and every dollar to that place to help people stay free. The government is doing its bit as well. So that makes it easier in some places than others. If you’re trying to bring people to freedom in India, it’s a lot easier, in some ways. There are difficulties, but it’s a lot easier than in Haiti, for example, or other countries where the government’s really not able to be that present because they don’t have the income base. Because in India, isn’t there a provision in law that if you come out of slavery, you get a certain amount of monetary support, and also access to other programs because you’re a freed slave.
Skip to 7 minutes and 22 seconds Exactly, yes. There are some relatively good provisions in place, but very few people get that without the support of a caring group of people and NGO. But at least there are supports. Absolutely. So, unlike the 40 acres and a mule that were often discussed as being what freed slaves in the United States after the Civil War could have received to help them to achieve economic autonomy, but they never received, in India, they can receive their equivalent of 40 acres and a mule. But usually, because of corruption in the system, it requires help from local NGOs? Yes. Yeah, that’s right. And then in a country like Haiti, where the infrastructure has pretty much collapsed, you just don’t have any such provision.
Skip to 8 minutes and 8 seconds No. Anything that that person needs to stay free often has to be brought from the outside and, you know, then develop. By human rights groups, anti-slavery groups, development groups. Yeah, development groups. And that’s– that’s one of the important things about how do we scale up, because most of the international development that’s happening at the moment is relatively blind to slavery. So they’re in these contexts where people are in debt bondage or they’re vulnerable to trafficking, but because the local development workers don’t have that vision, don’t have that lens of looking at it through, well, who’s controlling these people? If I’m trying to provide schools, why are the kids not turning up? You know, questions like that.
Skip to 8 minutes and 50 seconds And then if you help them realize there is an issue of slavery here that you need to explore– maybe it’s there, maybe it’s not– they can do their development job so much better. And when you solve the slavery issues, you get this massive– well, we’ve had to have a word for it, which is the freedom dividend. Because you get all these extra benefits that happen at the same time. This freedom dividend sounds fantastic. So, are we able to know in what areas of people’s lives that freedom dividend appears? And can we quantify it in any way?
Skip to 9 minutes and 25 seconds Well, we’ve just recently done, in effect, the first independent quantification of the freedom dividend in one of the areas that we work in India. And what we were doing was comparing a place where they’re doing the comprehensive intervention, as I’ve described, and an area where they were just doing a little bit of awareness, raising a few rescues. Starting to do work on slavery, but not as intensive. And what we found was that the people in the concentrated area, the comprehensive intervention, their savings were much bigger than the savings in the other place.
Skip to 10 minutes and 4 seconds They were sort of in a ratio of 4:1 benefit from the government’s employment guarantee scheme. They were accessing health much more easily. All of these things were much, much improved compared– and this was over a three-year period– four-year period. And what about their relationship with local government? Were they able to participate more than the group that had fewer– a less intense intervention, or– Yeah. I mean, we found that there wasn’t a big difference in voting– you know, the numbers who could vote. But in terms of their knowledge of how to get things done, you know, that’s what had changed, is that they just felt confident now to get all these systems working and potentially to get other people rescued.
Skip to 10 minutes and 54 seconds And I think it’s that awareness that leaves us confident that we can walk away. I mean, those groups still participate in the networks of other groups that are on the pathway to freedom, but we don’t need to go there every week, every month, because they can do it for themselves now. So it is a sustainable process. And if they’re having savings as opposed to just feeding themselves and clothing themselves and meeting their needs, they’re actually– they’re having asset formation. And of course, when asset formation occurs, that gives any community stability.
Skip to 11 minutes and 29 seconds And assets being, of course, not just money, but it could be tools, it could be machinery, it could be– education is also a kind of asset that you can form. Are you able to talk about how much asset formation goes on, or how– does the economy of that community then spiral up in some way, o the basis of that asset formation? Or that– is there greater productivity? That’s certainly what you would assume. We haven’t measured it across a large community to see, well, you know, are the rich people benefiting too? Are the people that are comfortably– relatively comfortably off, do they get a benefit?
Skip to 12 minutes and 6 seconds But you would certainly assume that if people were having fewer days off sick– you know, if they’re purchasing more stuff at the local market and trading in their own goods that they’ve grown, you might expect the whole system to go up. And obviously, there’s certainly a lot of evidence that the more years of schooling that children get, there’s always that extra benefit to the whole community. I’m thinking about that in part because though we don’t normally worry about the fact that slaves are not consumers, one of the critical things and very true things about people in slavery is that they’re prevented from being consumers within their own economy.
Skip to 12 minutes and 48 seconds So in a sense, they only produce– they don’t tend to actually produce in great volume or great quality, because slave labor tends to be at a low level of activity. But then, when they’re not able to buy really food or clothing or education for their children or whatever, they’ve been removed from the cycle of the economy, which might then grow if they were allowed to be consumers. Yes. Well, and the fact that some people can be exploited to that extent means that every worker above them is kept down. You know, unless we put a floor underneath people and say slavery is not going to happen, then everybody above that is at risk as well.
Skip to 13 minutes and 34 seconds Tell me more, though– we started talking about scaling up, then we went off in a slightly different direction. But what are we learning about how scale up can work when you involve government with NGOs and so forth? Well, one of the things that we’re looking at now at the Freedom Fund is not only how do we provide resources to local NGOs– because that’s always been the pattern– but then, how do we get committed government officials in the room? And there are plenty of them. They’re not all corrupt in any of these places.
Skip to 14 minutes and 7 seconds And then also, if there are businesses involved– particularly if there are international retailers, where there’s a little bit of accountability starting to develop to consumers– what have they got to bring to the table? What we do know is that a lot of the slavery that’s happening in the world is not in the front or the top of those supply chains. It’s not necessarily in the formalized factories. It’s often at the raw materials level, or it’s at the first processing of the raw materials. So if you look at the Indian spinning mills, the international retailers are not buying from them. They’re buying from the garment factories.
Skip to 14 minutes and 46 seconds And there may be good garment factories and there may be exploitative ones, but there’s not usually slavery. So it’s in the spinning mills where you might find teenage girls who can’t leave. They’re staying in the hostels and they’re hoping and waiting that they might one day get enough for a dowry, and then they get out and they get married. But if we can bring the influence of those international retailers and help them question what is going on in our supply chain, then maybe that helps to unlock a situation where otherwise people don’t seem to care very much.
Skip to 15 minutes and 20 seconds So international companies both cooperating with and pressurizing possibly local government officials to say to them, you need to work more closely with the people on the ground, the NGOs and so forth, but especially the organized local communities to solve the problem that you all share. Yes. And it’s a problem we all share. We’re all wearing the clothes that are made there. And we have a little bit of the guilt. They have a little bit of the guilt. And even the parents of those girls who go into the spinning mills, they have a bit of the guilt. So it’s all spread around. We’re all part of the problem, part of the solution.
Skip to 15 minutes and 56 seconds And I think bringing all of those groups together, you know– and a place like India does have good laws, and it’s often enforced, but sometimes it’s not. So we don’t want to– there’s no need to vilify anybody in this situation. But just to open the door to everyone. Yeah. To say, we can all have a part of this communal, conscious, collective decision to help people move toward freedom. And so, it’s in all of our interests. Ginny, thank you so much. It’s been great talking today.
Skip to 16 minutes and 27 seconds Today, we’ve been hearing about how to get people out of slavery, and one of the things that’s very interesting is that, in this course, we’ve also talked– we’re also talking about how we fit into the ideas of liberation through our consumption patterns, and whether boycotts work and how people in the past have worked to get and reduce the amount of slavery through their consumption patterns. Turns out that, as Ginny’s told us, you can link that, through major companies, with local governments, with national governments, with local and national NGOs on the ground, with people in slavery, to open a door where everyone is involved. No one has to be vilified. We can all step toward helping others achieve freedom.
Home Grown Freedom 2
In Part 2 of our film Homegrown Freedom, Ginny Baumann relates first-hand accounts of slaves moving to freedom.
She goes deeper into the psychological, legal, economic, and social barriers to achieving freedom, as well as the ways that antislavery groups surmount those barriers. The other crucial question Ginny discusses is the issue of “scaling up”. How do we deliver freedom on a large scale when international development work has so far been relatively blind to slavery, and has risked dropping resources into areas of destitution that might simply enrich the slaveholders?
The film shot at the Newington Green Unitarian Church in north London, one of England’s oldest Unitarian churches. It has historic ties to political radicalism and to 18th and 19th-century abolitionism.
After watching the film, share your ideas in the comments for how antislavery groups or governments might scale-up these community-based strategies. How do we take the effective but scattered work of groups who are freeing slaves in the hundreds, and scale up their work so that it reaches millions?