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Feb 1, 2018

In Episode 4 of Series 3 we talk about why the voices of modern slaves are key to finding the solutions that will help end slavery. Our guests are Andrea Nicholson and Minh Dang who are researching survivor narratives as part of the Rights Lab project at the University of Nottingham.

 0.00 - 03.50

  • What does it mean to be a survivor of slavery? Andrea explains the world is only just beginning to accept that slavery still exists, and, although it has many similarities with 19th century chattel slavery, it does not look the same
  • Todd describes a survivor as someone who was formerly a slave who has since been liberated - Andrea points out that even when liberated survivors are still attached to the experience of slavery and experience difficulty in "divorcing" from enslavement and the fear of re-enslavement
  • Andrea makes a distinction between victims (a limiting term) and survivors (an empowering term) – in this context she sees victims as a ‘legal term’, someone seeking redress for offences committed against them using criminal law while survivors don't necessarily see themselves as victims
  • Todd mentions an earlier episode of The Rights Track with William Simmons in which he stressed the importance of remembering that people who have suffered human rights abuses do not only identify themselves as victims – there are ‘joyful’ things about their lives too
  • Andrea agrees stressing that many survivors of slavery are also scholars, activists, and leaders who are engaged in action against slavery and why it’s important to acknowledge and understand that

03.50 - 07.43

Todd introduces Minh Dang who is leading a project in San Francisco around the formation of the Survivor Alliance

  • Minh explains how, as a survivor herself she became aware of a disconnect between academic research and the experiences of survivors
  • She explains how her research seeks to build the voices of survivors into the design of research projects and anti-slavery solutions/interventions
  • Discussion of how and why the voices of survivors can be incorporated into the structuring of research projects through the use of participatory methods and action research techniques
  • Minh talks about her experience of a community-based participatory research study, evaluating an anti-trafficking task force in San Francisco, where the research questions and project design came from survivors and how her PhD is asking survivors how they define well-being to inform and assess mental health interventions and how that will help practitioners (doctors/nurses/counsellors) provide better support
  • The San Francisco project is highlighted as one which features a multi-agency approach and is inclusive of the views and experiences of survivors – Minh mentions the project’s human trafficking report


07.43 - 13.45


            See also: Anti-Slavery; The Usable Past

  • Defining slavery is problematic - the 1926 definition focuses on rights of ownership - this creates issues for courts and NGOs so Andrea and Minh’s work uses survivors’ perceptions of what slavery is
  • Emerging from the narratives are concerns that some forms of slavery are being missed such as the sexual slavery of men and boys
  • The narratives are being mapped against the 169 Sustainable Development Goals
  • While SDG 8.7 is very explicit in terms of slavery, others related to education, health, armed conflict, climate change and gender bias may also be relevant
  • Minh adds that survivors don't identify as being ‘a slave’ until they are made aware - they may focus instead on domestic violence, poverty, racism or immigration issues

14.36 - 19.50

  • Andrea agrees that labelling of their experiences is important for survivors and gives them something to hold on to and a community to belong to.
  • Work with survivors around narratives has begun to reveal a great deal on perceptions of trauma, recovery, freedom and particularly what the definition of slavery means to them
  • Discussion on the impact of enslavement on survivors and how people process what has happened
  • Very little work has been done on trauma associated with slavery and it may not be the same as for survivors of other traumas such as the holocaust or domestic abuse, and evidence from survivor narratives shows post slavery trauma to be long lasting and complex and varied in impact on survivors - this project adds to that new and growing body of evidence
  • Minh joins the discussion on how focus should be directed away from the moment of freedom to the longer term which is that rescue is not the end of the process but the beginning of a long journey to recovery

19.50 - 23.24

  • Survivor Solutions has already thrown up specific strategic solutions from survivors which include public awareness campaigns, education programmes for vulnerable communities to reduce the power of traffickers, regulation of employment agencies, providing platforms for survivors to speak, monitoring of government anti-slavery programmes, and provision of safe housing

 Other useful links: