The idea springs from one of the least recognized but most prevalent forms of modern slavery: debt bondage. Also termed “involuntary servitude,” this corrupt phenomenon rears its end when an employer exploits the vulnerability of a group of people, thereby forcing them into bonded labor.
In many cases, immigrants make perfect targets for exploitation, cut off from their home culture and familiar resources as they tend to be. But even native communities can be manipulated into servitude, thanks to cultural acceptance of the practice. India is one area where–even despite its position as a democracy–debt bondage persists in abundance.
As usual, women and girls suffer most.
Whether they are offered up as nothing more than a debt settlement by a family member, or fall prey to servitude by their own money-strapped mistakes, female indentured servants are more often than not exploited sexually, as well.
In these cases where an entire community is enslaved by its own mentality, there is only one answer: free the entire community. But how?
As you might imagine, it’s even more expensive and complicated than saving a single soul. But you can help, in a couple of clicks. Today. By donating a few dollars toward the Free the Slaves Network and its local partners on-the-ground abroad, like I just did.
Let me tell you where your money is going, though, in 7 digestible steps, and using FTS network’s partners in India as an example.
1. FTS and its partners select a village. These villages on average will contain 25 families identified as enslaved by debt bondage.
2. The local partner sets up a low-cost transitional school in the heart of the settlement. The idea is to educate the children–teach them confidence, mutual support, and the hope to aspire for more. The secondary goal is to indirectly teach the parents, as well–by making them aware they have other options for their little ones, too.
3. At the same time, volunteers directly help the parents to acquire income-generating work.
Activists teach the adults–the women, especially–the skills necessary to acquire a real job outside of slave labor. This effort simultaneously teaches them they have the right to be paid in cash, not toil in endless debt to an unscrupulous landowner. They are receive lessons on saving money and negotiating loans with reputable local banks.
4. FTS partners help the community create a Community Vigilance Committee. What’s the point of this? It brings the community together as a unified resistance against the enslaving landowners, and holds people accountable to their new understanding of legal protections, government food distribution systems, etc., and not falling back into the old schools of thought.
5. Your funds go to help pay the activists and the school teachers. It also pays for school supplies for the kids and equipment for the newly trained adults, as well as legal and vocational training.
6. At the end of 3 years, an assessment study is conducted. Has the culture of slavery really been eradicated?
Now that you know where your money is going, will you join me?
(Full disclosure: I did one-time only for the smallest amount. If I hadn’t, I’ll be out of money before this month is over! Read about the beginnings of my February challenge here.)