Throughout history we see moments of emancipation. Enslaved individuals are no longer chained to exploitative conditions, and they’re set free. That freedom, however, is limited because an emancipation moment does not necessarily lead to real and lasting freedom.
Following that moment, the formerly enslaved need justice and care. Prosecution and transitional aftercare are critical steps toward lasting freedom. Healing and therapy enable these men, women and children to understand and thrive in new freedom.
However, these survivors need one more thing: empowerment.
Empowered survivors have authority over their lives and choices. Their mental, physical, spiritual and economic strengths give them power over their lives. This power decreases their vulnerabilities and lowers the likelihood of re-enslavement.
Imagine an individual living in extreme poverty, desperate to provide for his or her family. An opportunistic and exploitative person can prey upon this individual and mislead him or her into an arrangement that leads to slavery. This is a scenario seen throughout the world, day after day. The victim may escape and be offered services to help cope with and overcome that experience, but if he or she returns to a community and still faces the original poverty that made him or her vulnerable to the trafficker – well, enslavement can happen all over again.
Antislavery organizations see instances of re-enslavement. Others wonder why survivors’ communities continue facing the same situations and enslavement over and over again. It’s because the empowerment piece is missing. Empowerment addresses the underlying roots of slavery – the social and economic motivations for enslavement – by eliminating those vulnerabilities and giving communities and former slaves power over their futures.
Empowerment takes many forms. Some organizations focus on economic empowerment, providing job and skills training so survivors can provide an income to their families. Organizations like Made by Survivors takes this approach. Made by Survivors trains survivors of slavery as jewelry and metal artisans, and they create upscale jewelry pieces to be sold throughout the world.
Other former slaves find empowerment through their aftercare services and become vocal opponents of the social problems creating the conditions leading to their own enslavement. These empowered survivors can be seen advocating for policy changes in their own countries, speaking publicly about their lives to raise awareness or even joining antislavery organizations to rescue other victims.