Do you recognize the signs of modern slavery? Do you know how to report them to the authorities?
In their on-going work on violence against women, Soroptimist International of Thames Valley invited Caroline Virgo of the Clewer Initiative to be one of their monthly speakers, on Zoom of course because of current Covid restrictions. Soroptimist International of Thames Valley members were joined on Zoom by Soroptimists from other clubs throughout the UK and also by 7 members from their link club in Belgium, Soroptimist International of Val Brabant.
Caroline explained that the Clewer Initiative had its origins in the 1900s, founded by nuns, but that now they are a group of women plus a Bishop of the Church of England, Bishop Alistair Redfern, who work to combat modern slavery in the UK and Africa. Their thinking is that in every UK community there is a Church of England presence and that they are well placed therefore to fight modern slavery in all its new manifestations. Such relatively new manifestations were listed for example as car washes and County Lines. Caroline showed the audience several informative videos which highlight victims’ stories and these videos are also available on their site and on YouTube.
Unfortunately, often if people are found legally to be victims, their “reward” would seem to be that they are deported, since they have no proper papers for entry into the UK. The offenders, i.e. the exploiters, can be sentenced from 4 to 10 years’ imprisonment, be made to pay compensation and stopped from operating. Little redress for ruining lives.
When asked how Soroptimists can help, Caroline reminded us to report suspicious acts but said we can also help by putting pressure on the media to run stories about modern slavery and local events which concern it. It was also suggested that we befriend our local community police who are often very aware of local happenings. We can also download the Clewer Initiative’s Apps for example “Safe Car Wash” or read “Brave Bear” from the Brave Bear Trust to small children to make them aware of exploitation from an early age.
The Clewer Initiative: http://www.theclewerinitiative.org
“Brave Bear” https://www.jointhebravebear.org/author/heather/