Slavery, No Way!

The program enables communities to prevent trafficking of workers into slavery, especially in North, Northeast and Midwest Brazil. The basis of the program is to create the knowledge, collective decisions and sustained action of vulnerable communities so they can oppose this violation of human rights.

Reach of the Program

Since its launch in 2004, working in six of the most severely affected states of Brazil,“Slavery, No Way!” has:

  • Given in-depth training and on-going guidance and support to over 2,200 educators and community group leaders in 43 municipalities;
  • Reached over 60,000 people with crucial information to protect them from slave labor, through anti-slavery projects developed by the training participants;
  • Supported the creation of 50 prevention and awareness projects designed by community residents;
  • Distributed over 70,000 copies of free educational publications.
“Slavery, No Way!” activity in the Bom Jesus settlement created by landless workers. Photo: Gustavo Ohara

“Slavery, No Way!” activity in the Bom Jesus settlement created by landless workers. Photo: Gustavo Ohara

Slavery in Brazil

It is estimated by the International Labor Organization (ILO) that 25,000 people are enslaved in Brazil each year. Brazilian slaves suffer brutal and degrading conditions, are often trapped by debt and are forced to perform the harshest possible work: hauling wood to make charcoal, clearing huge tracts of forestry for cattle ranching, tilling land for soy crops or harvesting sugar cane.

Coordinated Success

Free the Slaves’ partners Repórter Brasil and Pastoral Land Commission (CPT) are at the forefront of integrated efforts to combat slavery and trafficking in Brazil. As of 2010, more than 40,000 former slaves in Brazil have been released especially through their prompting of government rescues and their strengthening of political will of the government against slavery. Yet the rescue of slaves is not the same as eradication of slavery. Repórter Brasil and Pastoral Land Commission also believe that to dismantle systems that place migrant workers at risk of enslavement, community awareness and social mobilization are crucial.

“Slavery, No Way!”: Strategy and Implementation

The program’s success relies on three main strategies:

1) Targeting participants in the right locations and who can multiply their knowledge to reach those most at risk:

Using data about the points of origin of workers rescued from slavery, the program targets municipalities in the North, Northeast and Midwest that have the highest number of trafficked workers. It then targets teachers and community group leaders to join in trainings (typically 5 days) and become part of the network.

Teachers are vital because they are in constant interaction with students and young adults, who, by being at the peak of physical strength, are most targeted by traffickers for hard labor tasks where slavery is most prevalent. Community group leaders are selected because of the contact they have with migrant workers and their families.

In addition, the program has been adapted to work directly with vulnerable groups, where former slaves and workers who are most at risk are becoming organized.  One example of this is the groups that are occupying and seeking tenure of land that is not being effectively used by large landowners.  Adaptation of the materials makes the program directly relevant to their immediate circumstances.

2) Educational approaches that are in-depth, that value reflection, and give participants a real command of all the issues surrounding slavery in rural Brazil:

“Slavery, No Way!” believes in enabling groups of people to form their own clear ideas about the root causes of slavery and trafficking, as well as all its consequences, and then to prepare their own responses.

This is crucial for sustainability and to equip trainees to multiply their knowledge in their own and neighboring communities.

The main handbook uses exercises, case studies, photos and other media to help trainees explore the social, political, economic and environmental connections.  Towards the end of the training, small groups work on their own action plan for taking the issue forward with the groups they work with.

The approach is in sharp contrast to more superficial awareness raising efforts against trafficking that give no real ownership of the issue to those targeted for outreach and therefore have little lasting effect.

The concepts of the handbook have also been adapted and used by the Ministry of Education and ILO for a booklet that adult literacy teachers use to teach reading at the same time as sharing information about slave labor.

Program team members continue to develop new lesson plans, as they experiment during trainings and learn from what works with different target groups.  Each training concludes with a detailed evaluation, and the follow up visits to trainees by the program staff allow for further monitoring of actions taken due to the training.

3) Participants become leaders of action against slavery and remain part of a support network:

Training participants at Axixá, Tocantins. Photo: Repórter Brasil

Training participants at Axixá, Tocantins. Photo: Repórter Brasil

As well as the activities that participants design at the training itself, at the start of each year, they are invited to propose community projects for selection for support by the program. In 2010, 50 such slavery prevention projects were developed and successfully implemented by teachers and community leaders.  Some of these are projects to spread knowledge of slavery,  while others boost local initiatives to generate income among people at risk of trafficking. Educators and leaders are also invited to join in regional school competitions, cultural festivals and debates.  These generate energetic participation by young people to produce drama, art, and poetry on the theme, and their products are then used at the competitions to reach thousands of people with anti-slavery messages.

Staff of the program also carry out monitoring visits to each city, bringing together participants trained by the course.  This provides opportunities to share new materials, news on slavery issues, report on the progress and challenges of their local outreach and plan future actions together.  The success of these approaches to networking is shown when participants continue to commit to bringing the issue of slavery into the public eye in their communities.  As a result of this emphasis on creative participation, the content of “Slavery, No Way” is constantly expanding, while the demand for the training in new areas is also growing.

“Slavery, No Way!” is celebrated by popular movements and government bodies alike as the first program working to prevent slavery, with a nationwide effect. Although the program targets the main source states for trafficking, its effect is often also felt in locations on the agricultural frontier, where landowners find that workers are more aware and expect to negotiate for better conditions.

The program was created as one of the demands of the National Plan for the Eradication of Slave Labor in 2003, and further endorsed as a specific goal of the 2nd National Plan. Four state-level Plans against Slavery include promotion of the program.

“Slavery, No Way!” is carried out through a collaboration led by Repórter Brasil along with CPT, and the Center for Defense of Life and Human Rights. It is then implemented in each area in consultation with local education departments, municipal authorities, and Human Rights centers, as well as dozens of rural trade unions, teachers unions, church groups and others. In past years, sponsorships of its activities have been provided by the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency, TAM airlines, ILO, the Ministry of Education, as well as state-level government departments. Currently it receives support through Catholic Relief Services as well as from “moral damage” payments awarded as part of legal cases against slaveholders.

Program in 2011

In 2011, “Slavery, No Way!” intends to:

  • Train 150 teachers and community group leaders in 3 cities.
  • Visit and guide the participants who are now spreading knowledge in 10 municipalities that already received training. Distribute new materials to these participants.
  • Produce and publish textbooks on two new themes related to slavery.
  • Publish the 2nd updated edition of the textbook Slavery, No Way! – How to address the issue of slave labor in the classroom and community.
  • Promote teaching and learning activities on the website for free access by all the network participants and others.
  • Fund and give advice to 15 community projects on the topic of contemporary slavery.
  • Hold two major inter-school competitions in cities of Mato Grosso state.

In future, the program aims to:

  • Disseminate an increasing range of educational materials through the Internet, using virtual media to share information on the subject.
  • Train state level education managers who have the ability to reach more teachers.
  • Enable 6 Brazilian states to insert the theme of slave labor in their school curriculum, as a matter of public policy.

Recent examples of activities, reported by local organizers

At the Pan-Amazonic Social Forum, CPT and Reporter Brasil organized a half-day workshop to disseminate and exchange good educational practices on prevention and social mobilization in 4 states. During the workshop, educational experiences with slave labor prevention in the regions of Tucurui, Xinguara, Marabá, Santa Luzia, and Araguaína were presented, showing the wealth of creativity in the community responses.

These are the experiences presented by four of the “Slavery, No Way!” network members:

Juraci Vieria, of the Municipal School of Pedro Valle, located in a settlement in Marabá, brought the experiences of a project titled “Slave Labor: explain, educate and transform”, which mobilized the entire school in preparing a play called “Lost Hope”.  This was presented in nine settlements and then put on film. According to Juraci, many of the people who attended the presentations were very emotional when they realized that they had, without knowing it, faced situations of slave labor that they had considered normal. The school also offered handcraft workshops with recycled materials as an alternative for some of the students at risk of trafficking to generate income.

Maria Neide Moraes, of the Liberdade public school located in a peripheral neighborhood in  Marabá, presented a project titled “Building new work relationships in the city ofMarabá. Throughout the entire year the school carried out interdisciplinary activities to debate various aspects relating to the issue, such as migration, sexual exploitation, agrarian issues, economic activities, consequences for worker health, and many others. It ended with the participation of 1,500 people from the community.

Another teacher from the state of Pará, Genilse Ribeiro, explained the experience in Breu Branco, where educators, along with the CPT, organized a working group to promote activities around the slave labor issue. During the year a contest was held, involving various schools of the municipality in producing designs, poems and texts.

Finally, teacher Elbna Ferreira de Carvalho presented a project titled “Educate to make aware, combat and train.” carried out in Santa Luzia by the Education Workers Union. They held training sessions in 11 schools that participated in a contest, involving students in producing designs, poetry and stories. The result was published as a booklet.

Another quote from “Slavery, No Way!”  network member:

“The slavery prevention project supported by “Slavery, No Way!” has brought us several benefits. Slave labor is a common problem in our region but is little known as such. With the project’s development we discovered that there were cases of labor exploitation among our adult students. During the project, the rights and duties of workers were discussed and clarified with the students, because most of them had no knowledge regarding slavery because of their reading difficulties and poor access to media. The school is a means to transmit this knowledge to the population. And we embrace the cause, thinking about the reduction of slave labor in our region”, Gilza Pessoa, teacher from a rural school which developed a project on slavery in 2010 in Confresa, Mato Grosso. 

(by Ginny Baumann – Associate Programs Director of Free The Slaves)