Making Modern Slavery History
A Social Enterprise Approach to breaking the modern slavery supply chain
Grace + Grit Social Enterprise is a social behaviour change intervention founded in 2018 by award-winning Behavioural Scientist, Social Innovation Designer and Marketer, Dr Foluké Abigail Badejo. Currently operating in Australia, Nigeria and Cameroon, the enterprise is dedicated to the emancipation of women and children from modern slavery such as sex trafficking, wage labour exploitation, forced marriage and gender-based violence. As an evidence-based social behaviour change intervention the enterprise co-designs innovative, trauma-informed education and employment pathways to protect disadvantaged women and children from modern slavery, and rehabilitate and empower victims. The enterprise's social mission has been designed to be funded by a portfolio of attractive trading activities that serve to provide employment pathways for victims including a story subscription service; training, research and program design services, small enterprise development support services, affiliate marketing and sale of ethical merchandise.
Unpacking the complexity of Modern Slavery
Formative Research + Key Insights
The Gendered Costs of Modern Slavery
Grace + Grit Social Enterprise is the application of qualitative research insights generated from Dr Badejo's multi-stream, multi-method PhD program of research on combatting modern slavery in Nigeria. Drawing on ethnographic research methods and interpreted through a Critical Theory lens, Dr Badejo's research found that the modern slavery of women and children in Nigeria is driven by a complex interplay of push and pull factors across macro, meso and micro levels of the social system, which collectively work to perpetuate modern slavery and reproduce gender inequality.
These factors include:
High rate of youth unemployment and unequal access to education and employment opportunities
Financial distress and insecurity, social and economic exclusion
Large family sizes and family pressure
Insufficient knowledge and understanding of the extent of exploitation and human rights violation within the human trafficking system
Unchallenged belief systems, ideology and traditional practices such as child labour and child fostering, which increase vulnerability to hazardous child labor, exploitation, forced marriage, violence and abuse
Globalisation, failures of Neoliberal capitalism and labour market migration
Social norms, popular culture and aspirational entertainment media that promotes and privileges material wealth and social status.
Problematically, many victims and survivors of modern slavery are trauma bonded to their oppressors, with some adopting dysfunctional beliefs in the emancipatory potential modern slavery in the absence of decent work and access to education. For example, Dr Badejo's research found that some Nigerian victims of sex trafficking perceived human traffickers as benevolent employment agents who offered employment opportunities in contrast to the harsh socio-economic conditions at home which offered few legitimate opportunities for economic and social inclusion. In reality, these vulnerable women have merely exchanged one form of oppression for another, as they often have their freedom restricted, their passports seized, and are forced to work under harsh, exploitative labour conditions for several years to repay disproportionately large debts.
Worse yet, when some of these women are rescued, they are often stigmatised, excluded, isolated and thereby further disadvantaged upon return to their communities, leaving them little choice but to return to the familiar dark market of human trafficking. Tragically, some of these women go on to become human traffickers themselves and recruiting other vulnerable young women from their communities into the illegal market system. Once in this exploitative market system young women are controlled via physical and psychological means including addictive drugs, of which many develop a dependency, threats of violence and preying on victims' superstitious belief systems by swearing oaths sealed with Juju to secure their allegiance as in the case of some Nigerian victims.
Gender Inequality as Modern Slavery
Likewise, with more than half a billion women worldwide currently lacking access to education and employment opportunities, the majority of women globally remain marginalised and economically disadvantaged leaving them wide open to gender-based oppression and various forms of modern slavery including sex trafficking, debt-bondage, forced marriage, wage labour exploitation, violence and abuse.
Without access to critical knowledge, resources and agency to make rational economic choices, millions of women around the world continue to be marginalised and vulnerable to modern slavery. In the process, many of these women are also exposed to dangerous and exploitative working conditions. A significant number of them develop chronic physical and psychological health conditions including sexually transmitted diseases, substance use disorders, social isolation, depression, self-harming, and suicidal ideations to name a few.
These underlying health conditions can in turn create an additional layer of trauma for victims that can lead to maladaptive coping mechanisms, disordered personalities, criminal behaviours, lack of social support and destructive thought patterns reinforce the status quo. Additionally, some of these women lack knowledge and access to much needed critical support services.
In this regard, many women remain stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty and disadvantage. These women are examples the new slaves of our generation - modern day slaves of patriarchal legal systems and unregulated dark markets. As such many disadvantaged women around the world continue to be dehumanised and denied their right to self-determination.
Crucially, the growing prevalence of modern slavery worldwide and ongoing lack of access to education for over 500 million women across the world together work to uphold the systems and institutions of oppression that enslave women, creating a reinforcing feedback loop of double disadvantage and rendering a staggering proportion of the world's population powerless and excluded from participating in the global economy.
Imagine if our generation banded together to change this dire outlook. What if together we rallied round to support organisations working to educate and economically empower half a billion women worldwide? Imagine what a generation of empowered women could mean for the global economy and achievement of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals!
Grace + Grit Social Enterprises believes in this alternative vision of the future. We believe we can end gender inequality and emancipate women and girls the world over and we are committed to realising this vision. As such we call on every educated woman with the privilege, means and platform to rise up to the challenge. As #generationequality and witness to the urgency and complexity of the problem, we need all hands on deck.
As the fortunate half of our gender, we must use our knowledge, power and platform to radically transform the dire prospects of the remainder of our gender. The need is evident, and the solution is clear - education and advocacy as a movement and key to emancipation and empowerment of women. We cannot afford to be complicit and unmoved by the subordination, oppression and abuse of our gender lest we remain marginalised across every level of society. For women of colour across the globe, their prospect is even more dire when we account for the interplay of race, class and sexual orientation in their experiences of oppression and inequality.
Our duty as the educated minority and therefore representative of our gender is to educate and empower marginalised women to create opportunities and pathways to enable them to break free from modern slavery with courage and dignity.
The problem is great but the solution is simple and the goal is clear - close the gap for 500 million women.
Choose Dignity - The Grace + Grit Solution
Dr Badejo established Grace + Grit Social Enterprise as a market challenger to the modern slavery market system and a new voice for gender equality. As a multi-level social behaviour change intervention, the enterprise works across all levels of modern society to educate women and build resilient children and empowered communities.
Her vision for Grace + Grit Social Enterprise is to make modern slavery history in her lifetime. Her mission is to break every chain of modern slavery and systems of oppression that perpetuate subjugation of women and the abuse of children. Through facilitating and promoting equal access to education and pathways to decent work for the 500 million women in need worldwide, Dr Badejo's work is steadily cutting through. Grace + Grit Social Enterprise works with national and international development organisations to equip women and children with critical skills, resources, access and opportunities to increase their participation in the global economy.
Your support can help us to achieve this vision financially, in kind or by simply using the below hashtags to promote our work.