CHENNAI, INDIA – This week, IJM Chennai’s advocacy and grassroots-mobilization campaign to raise awareness about forced labor slavery ended with a final performance. Since the campaign launched a month ago, this play has been performed in 50 villages across five districts, reaching 4,800 people.
IJM created the campaign in order to educate and empower those who are most vulnerable to forced labor slavery, members of tribal groups living in extreme poverty called the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities. The play has been a powerful medium to communicate the perils of trafficking to this audience, many of whom are illiterate. By performing the play in the rural villages, staff was able to connect with local organizations that area already working in these communities.
“In order to eradicate slavery once and for all from India, we must work together,” explains Saju Mathew, IJM’s Director of Operations in South Asia. “We work with the government to rescue and restore individual families from forced labor slavery to freedom, but we need entire communities standing together to prevent slavery from happening in the first place.”
The final play took place at a prominent theater in Chennai. Several speakers, including the playwright, gave remarks following the energetic performance involving song, dance and dialogue to creatively share the story of five individuals’ journey from slavery to freedom.
Kumar, an IJM client who was rescued with his wife and three children in 2009 from slavery in a rice mill, gave the closing remarks. His words were brief but powerful. He thanked IJM for giving him what his family needed most: freedom.
Although many in India are unaware of the prevalence and severity of forced labor slavery in India, the campaign has generated significant media attention – as well as bringing awareness and empowering those who are most vulnerable to being trapped in slavery.
Read recent coverage in Indian media about the prevalence of slavery in South India – and IJM’s work to counter it.