Open to organizations and individuals working to defeat the human trafficking industry, The Freedom Awards celebrate heroes of the anti-slavery movement from around the world. With nominations from twenty-two countries, this year’s awards honor women who are making incredible strides in anti-slavery work.
Trafficking has grown as a problem in the state of West Bengal, India. As laborers move outside their home villages to seek work, they become increasingly vulnerable to forced labor practices. Additionally, parents who cannot afford the huge dowry required in traditional weddings are being tricked into selling their daughters into “slave marriage,” accepting payment for their daughters’ weddings to unknown families.
The Working Women’s Association, Shramjibee Mahila Samity (SMS), fights slave marriage and other forms of domestic slavery in India on many fronts. The democratically governed organization of 28,000 women aims for self-empowerment of its members through organizing. Educating villagers on how to slave-proof their communities, SMS puts on plays to teach people to recognize the tricks of the trafficking trade. Through forming women’s committees, villagers are learning what actions to take when someone is taken into the trade.
SMS goes undercover to expose human traffickers, traces missing people, and puts pressure on their government to enact regulations to end trafficking. The organization also helps slavery survivors reunite with their families and rebuild their lives. Through trainings, the women are taught how to be self-sufficient and open small businesses so that they can earn a living without needing to move far away from home.
As recipients of the Harriet Tubman Award, SMS will receive: a grant of $25,000 a year for the next two years, a technical assistance package worth $15,000 a year for two years, a short documentary to be produced by Free the Slaves about the work of their organization, and more.