Two weeks ago, was Anti-Slavery Day in the UK – an opportunity to raise awareness about modern slavery, share good practice and highlight gaps in services and policy. The Day is an effective platform for anti-trafficking and support services to get modern slavery into the public conscience.
This year, we wanted to use Anti-Slavery Day to give the individuals we support a chance to shed light on what they wanted people to understand about their stories. After all, they are the people who have lived through horrendous situations of modern slavery and continue to face a multitude of barriers to moving on with their lives. Their voices matter.
An idea arose to provide clients with 8 weeks of basic photography training, a camera and the support of a professional photographer – Katie. It was hoped at the end of the course, the women who took part, could share a selection of images and captions in a small exhibition. What came to fruition was more than any of us expected.
Although collectively the 9 survivors who took part in the course are often categorised as ‘victims’, their images and accompanying words, for me, highlighted that they are far more than just a STAT to be talked of on Anti-Slavery Day. They have all suffered inexplicable exploitation and continue to face major difficulties: from complex mental health issues to issues regarding immigration. The women laid themselves bare and took this opportunity to educate people about their experiences with both hands.
‘Property of no one’ is a survivor of trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation. She is now a valued volunteer at the Snowdrop Project and is passionate about raising awareness of trafficking. Below is an image and accompanying caption she displayed in the exhibition.
‘Please don’t touch’. That should have been my choice to say, but you took that away.
The shadow of the hand is my way of trying to protect myself when those words weren’t listened to. The dark shape in the top right feels like what I was trying to protect myself from. They come in many dark shapes and sizes. The darker arm shadow is showing that now I’m in control but the lighter shadow shows a time when that control was taken away.
Although Anti-Slavery Day offers the chance to raise awareness of what modern slavery is, it’s important to remember those people who continue to face long-term issues long after they have been ‘rescued’. This exhibition offered a window into survivors different experiences and altered many people’s perspectives. One person commented that “I never fully understood the impact or extent of modern slavery. It has opened my eyes to a world I do not see. Brave women for sharing their life experiences”.
Thank you to the 9 women who offered us a window into your lives. Your ability to turn pain into thought-provoking and powerful imagery should be recognised for what it is – a remarkable achievement.
If you would like to purchase a pack of images, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more. These packs are £4 and all the money raised, will go directly towards empowering survivors to move on from their past.
We would also like to say, a special thank you to the Big Lottery Fund for fully funding the project and enabling survivors to learn new skills, make new friends and share their stories.
Written by Megan Bethell, Snowdrop Project’s Office and Communications Manager.