In 1833, the Slavery Abolition Act was passed by the British government. In 1839, UK-based charity Anti-Slavery International established themselves, knowing that globally, and even within the British Empire, there was still much more work to be done before equality and freedom was truly a global human experience.
1865 saw the abolition of slavery in United States, but even then, the work was far from over. 178 years of campaigning later, Anti-Slavery International have achieved numerous life-changing and often Herculean successes, at personal and legislative levels: they fought to extend the abolition act to the British colonies, worked to stop abuses in Belgian Congo, successfully fought Indian and Chinese ‘coolie’ systems and slavery in Peruvian Amazon – and still they campaign on.
Anti-Slavery International are currently actively working in Africa, India and the UK, as well as Nepal, Lebanon, Peru, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Their work focuses on helping victims of slavery under all guises, enabling people to leave and pushing governments to provide greater legal protection. They tackle descent-based slavery, bonded labour and ‘debt bondage’, oppressive domestic service, forced marriage, child labour, human trafficking, and also work to protect the rights of vulnerable migrant workers.
It can be shocking or hard to process, living our sheltered and privileged lives, that slavery is still an active threat, yet for many it is a reality without any sign of a way out. The list above shows the many ways slavery can disguise itself, or in some cases, continues to flagrantly exist despite laws that claim to prevent it. Without sufficient legal protection and support systems in place, victims of slavery see few options but to remain – and this mentality is re-enforced by their captors, psychologically and often violently.
Tatinatt in Niger, one of Anti-Slavery International’s many success stories, believed slavery was her only option: “I had always been led to believe that God would punish any slave who disobeyed her master, and that the slave’s chances of going to paradise would be decided by her master. [Anti-Slavery International, and their Niger partners Timidria] explained to me that my situation of slavery was a crime, and that it was not endorsed by Islam, as I had always been told.”
With Timidria and Anti-Slavery International’s help, Tatinatt now has her own life, and has even been able to send her children to school. “I never believed that a woman, especially a slave woman, could make her own fortune, but now I have ten goats and I sell sugar, tea, tobacco, cooking oil and sauces. I feel completely free – I am no longer a slave.”
There is much work still to be done, and not just by charities, or even governments. Anti-Slavery International believe that businesses can make huge steps towards eradicating slavery in the world through due diligence in their supply chains. The charity first identified this form of slavery as a key issue two decades ago, around the time that child labour in West Africa’s cocoa industry was uncovered. Today, companies’ responsibility to respect human rights is widely recognised, and yet the issue of supply chain slavery remains.
“We believe that businesses have a significant role to play. We advocate that supply chain transparency and human rights due diligence are necessary in order to eliminate the risk of exploitative practices. We also provide guidance and training for numerous UK and international businesses on supply chain due diligence and addressing modern slavery risks across a range of sectors.”
If you want to get in touch with Anti-Slavery International to see how you can help, or receive help, you can contact them on email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.antislavery.org.