Why Bagchi Law Supports Freedom United’s Mission to End Slavery
Freedom United is all about social change. By mobilizing a mass movement of people to build power for change – people who understand what extreme exploitation looks like, how it connects to our lives, and what change needs to happen, Freedom United creates a space where you can take action towards a future you want to see. Bagchi Law is a proud pro bono supporter of their work and we caught up with Executive Director, Joanna Ewart-James, to discuss how they are working to create a world that is resilient to trafficking and exploitation of people.
Why is there a need to end slavery in today’s modern world?
Modern slavery is recognized in international law as a crime against humanity. However, despite that, exploitation is pervasive. We don’t know how many people are victims of extreme exploitation but our best estimates are that today over 40 million people are living in conditions of modern slavery – exploited for someone else’s benefit, unable to leave because of threats, penalties, or punishment. And this is happening everywhere, in every country around the world. We’ve got some great learning tools on our website here.
How are you solving this problem?
We are building a community of people who have at their heart those who are vulnerable to exploitation, who are being exploited, or who have survived contemporary forms of slavery. That means a community that does not sensationalize the experience of trafficking, who understand what it looks like so can call it out, to really shift the whole of society’s mindset to one in which exploitation is not acceptable. We believe that we’ll only create sustainable change – resilience to modern slavery – if we have a mass movement of people acting as allies to survivor advocates leading the charge in creating systems and structures that protect people.
How did Freedom United get started?
I co-founded Freedom United with Joe Schmidt. It was the result of a merger of an organization I was heading up called the Walk Free Movement and End Crowd, an initiative that Joe had established. We brought a diverse but complementary set of skills and experiences to the creation of Freedom United – Joe’s marketing expertise and my human rights background. I think it’s fair to say that Freedom United does a great job of drawing on the successes of its history whilst looking forward to the latest in digital technology as a mobilizing force.
How are you funded?
Freedom United is funded entirely by donations from our supporters and board of directors, with just a couple of grants, which are nevertheless very important to our financial sustainability. We are incredibly grateful that the generosity of our donors allows us to remain independent and expose modern slavery without compromise. Freedom United doesn’t receive any government funding.
How has the support of Bagchi Law helped further your mission?
Neil Bagchi has been our Legal Counsel since the beginning when we started in 2016. I can’t overstate how wonderful it is to know that we have the support of Bagchi Law to call on and that they are ready to help us whatever the subject. The nature of Freedom United’s work raises a plethora of complex, global legal issues. Without the assistance of Bagchi Law, those issues could paralyze Freedom United. Bagchi Law helps navigate Freedom United’s tricky legal waters in order to enable us to focus our time and energy on the cause.
What are your upcoming goals over the next 12 months?
I’m excited about the future, despite the challenges. We are starting to see the fruits of our efforts to create a space where survivor advocates feel comfortable to mobilize for change. I can’t think of another successful movement that didn’t have those with lived experience at the forefront. We plan to expand our My Story, My Dignity campaign over the coming year and I hope that by showing how it can be done, other organizations will be encouraged to consider what adjustments they can make to be proactive in developing survivor leadership. I am certain that this is a necessary precursor to the creation of a world resilient to trafficking and modern slavery.
Bagchi Law has and continues to be, inspired by the passion, commitment, and drive of the Freedom United board members and officers in furtherance of the organization’s mission to end modern slavery. We invite you to learn more, act, or give to support the anti-slavery movement.
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