Global children’s charity commits $10m to combating slavery

More than 35 million people are enslaved worldwide according to the 2014 Global Slavery Index

Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), a leading private charity with more than $4bn in assets, pledged $10m on Monday in support of global efforts to fight slavery and the exploitation of minors.

The money will be released over five years to The Freedom Fund, a private donor fund dedicated to ending modern slavery. It will be used to scale up existing projects in Ethiopia, India and Nepal, and potentially in a new tie-up with India’s Childline, to support the hotline’s anti-trafficking efforts, the London-based organisation said.

The deal will also see Michael Anderson, CEO of CIFF, join the Freedom Fund’s board of directors later this month.

Child slavery has a devastating impact on children and their communities,” said Nick Grono, chief executive officer of the fund. “CIFF’s commitment to the Freedom Fund, and to ending the slavery of children around the world, will be transformative.”

More than 35 million people are enslaved worldwide; trafficked into brothels, trapped in debt bondage, or the victims of forced labour, according to the 2014 Global Slavery Index. This illegal trade generates an estimated $150bn in annual profits, and it is thought up to 25 per cent of its victims are children.

“Children are subject to heavy physical work, for punishing hours. They don’t get schooling, so often grow up illiterate, perpetuating their vulnerability,” said Grono. “Girls in particular are subject to sexual harassment.”

Every country in the world has laws that criminalise some form of slavery, yet most governments and multinationals could do more to identify and aid victims and root out slavery from supply chains, Grono said.

“The fact that slavery is so prevalent is an affront to the rule of law. It is a fundamental human rights issue, but one that with political will and funding, we can have huge success over the next decade in tackling,” he said.

The Freedom Fund was established in 2014 with the aim of raising $100m by 2020 to fight modern slavery. The fund has raised $50m to date, and invested $7m in targeting ‘hotspots’ – geographic regions with a high concentration of slavery – and funneling resources to frontline agencies closest to the problem.

Its interventions include freeing families from bonded labour in brick kilns and stone quarries in northern India, helping girls to escape forced labour in India’s garment industry, and fighting the exploitation of children in Nepal. Encouraging communities to be vigilant to the signs of slavery has been particularly effective in curbing the trafficking of children, Grono said.

In March, the fund received a $2.7m investment from the Swiss-based C&A Foundation to combat bonded labour in four Indian districts, over a three-year period.

CIFF was set up more than a decade ago to use catalytic funding to help children in the developing world. It is funded in part by profits generated by the Children’s Investment Fund, which has donated more than $2bn to the charity to date.