Louise Allain, 19th October, 2013
With 32 billion dollars a year generated by Slavery, those like Monique Villa of Trust Women and Kevin Bales who has helped compile the First Global Slavery Index this year, are fighting an enormous and amazing humanitarian task to make slavery a thing of the past: again.
This week, Monique Villa, CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation, and a Women's Rights advocate who initiated Trust Women, featured on Al Jazeera's flagship programme Inside Story to discuss some of the issues arising from the Trust Women Conference in April 2013, most significantly the initiative to work with American District Attorney Cyrus Vance, to create an International Financial working group against human trafficking.
Monique Villa spoke candidly on Inside Story about the reality of slavery around us in everyday life:
'Chic Hotels, Nail Salons, you have probably spoken to one, they look like a normal worker, but they might well be a slave, they suffer so much coercion and abuse of every kind, they often don't even realise they are victims.' Monique goes on to say that, even if an individual is eventually freed from slavery and given the legal empowerment to sue their trafficker, they don't want to take action. Such is the nature of coercion that has been sunk into their psyches by their 'owner'.
Trust Women Conference which took place in January and April 2013 and will have further meetings this year, is a scheme aided by Monique's employer Thomson Reuters , Monique talks about how she used Thomson Reuters to aid under reported issues such as slavery. Trust Women geared at action towards exposing and diminishing slavery, met, along with Cyrus Vance in New York in the Spring, to do a round table discussion with the US's biggest banks. The goal was to share the data from the credit cards of their clients, because this information is very illustrative for providing the tell-tale patterns of human traffickers, which can then be shared with governments and law enforcement.
Monique is very enthusiastic about the information the First Global Slavery Index, engineered by among others Kevin Bales, will provide to help organisations like Trust Women.
According to the estimates by the Global Slavery Index, the highest figure for slavery is in India, at around 13 million of it's population, with China, Pakistan and Nigeria following behind that at around the 2 million mark. Slavery means anything from debt bondage, being owned by an employer, young boys in Africa sold as child soldiers, to trafficking women in countries in Eastern Europe even the UK, for prostitution, to work in brothels.
The Global Slavery Index featured 162 governments in it's report. So far there has been no response, Kevin Bales says, to the preliminary report given to the Indian Government.
'Slavery should belong to the history books, and most people think it does' says Monique Villa, 'In reality it is growing by the year.' Having data though does mean there may be a way forward to improve the situation, reach out to NGO's, Governments, Law Enforcement and try to put slavery back in the history books; though with the revenue from slavery thought to be around 32 billion, there is a tough task ahead for those like Monique and the Trust Women Conference.