The Freedom Awards – Free the Slaves

The stage is set:

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People are ready:

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Let the show begin …

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The Freedom Awards Ceremony 2010. The plan: Ending slavery in our lifetime. I felt a kind of sorry when I read in the twitterstream a few days before the event that tickets are on discount – No interest to end slavery within LA society? Hopefully not. But my feeling when the showdown on the red carpet started got actually stronger as the ceremony went on: A mismatch of the audience’s glamour and the uglyness of the topic. A topic I thought we’ve left behind decades ago. But the harsh truth is there are still 27 million slaves worldwide – today! Surprisingly enough at the end of the show my neighbour, a woman from Salt Lake City, asked me exactly this question: “Do you think the audience really cares about the problem?”

I don’t know …

Despite the doubts there was also lots about hope and celebration. And the celebration was fun – No boring speeches, tons of great music instead, colorful and chearful people, very powerful – the set on the stage was marvellous! It kick-start my heart;-)
And the stories touched me deeply, because I’ve seen them with my own eyes – in Africa and the US. And I do know that WE can do better!

But let’s start from the beginning. The Freedom Awards are open to organizations and individuals working to eradicate human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Nominations come from around the world, and winners are selected by independent international committees. This year they have been held for the third time. Here are the winners:

Sex Slavery: Tina Frundt
… is founder and executive director of Courtney’s House and a leading figure in the crusade to help children sexually exploited for commercial purposes. She says that no little girl dreams of becoming a sex slave when she grows up. That’s why Tina risks her life in the middle of the night to reach out to teens that are trapped. She knows their pain and fear. “The reason why I’m so compelled to do this work is because I’m a survivor of sex trafficking,” Tina says, “and quite honestly, nobody did this for me.”

I remember, 30 years ago, a close friend of mine in New York took me on a tour through Manhattan. He showed me at least 5 places where gays could easily find minor, very young Latino sex slaves – (apparantly) ready for a quick blow job right out of the car or any other service. Once in a while, when I am back in New York I go and see these places … Some of them have disappeared, some of them have moved … but the business is still alive – and hard to say – it is accepted in the society. Maybe because it is auch a HUGE business.

JEEVIKA

The farm fields of India are one of the world’s worst spots for slavery. Trapped by phony debts, entire families have been enslaved for generations. JEEVIKA is a courageous grassroots organization that works in rural villages outside Bangalore, where the Dalits or “untouchable” caste has endured centuries of poverty and humiliation. It is a group that helps slaves understand their rights and free themselves from bondage. By standing together against powerful land owners and complacent public officials, slaves discover that freedom is possible.

Roger Plant

Roger Plant has been a leading investigator and activist on forced labor and modern slavery for more than 30 years. His influential book, Sugar and Modern Slavery, was one of the first to bring the world’s attention to the nature and dimensions of slavery-like practices in the modern world. He has also exposed slavery-like conditions affecting migrant workers and indigenous people throughout Asia and Latin America. “There’s a tremendous amount of good will around in the world,” Roger says. “Our job is to mobilize the good will against the bad.”

And last but not least: Anne Keehn

Anne Keehn is running the Free the Slaves blog. She came face-to-face with slavery while working as a journalism intern in Israel. Farm workers described to her how they’d been trafficked from Asia. It touched a nerve that would change her forever. “I saw something of myself,” she says. “I also saw how their experience was the dark, flip side of my own life.” Now, Anne uses the Internet to build bridges between those in slavery, and those who can support efforts to free them.

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