“Freedom Rising”: an initiative to bring women and survivors into NGO leadership positions

December 1, 2020
Freedom Fund Announces Initiative to Bring Women Into Leadership Positions in Anti-Slavery Orgs

On 30 November, 2020 DC Velocity reported that with $1.2 million in funding (with support from Laudes Foundation, Stardust Fund, The Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund, UBS Optimus Foundation and Lisa Wolverton, President, Wolverton Foundation), the Freedom Fund has launched “Freedom Rising“, a program to identify, equip, empower and support women and survivors of modern slavery to become leaders of anti-slavery organizations in their communities and in the global movement.

Of the groups working to liberate people and end the conditions that lead to modern slavery, very few are led by women and survivors of slavery. The Freedom Fund, the largest global funder of frontline, anti-slavery organizations, believes that women and survivors should be at the center of the work to end modern slavery. Today,

We know from our experience supporting frontline organizations that the most effective and sustained way to end modern slavery is to incorporate the experiences and the leadership of women and survivors,” said Nick Grono, CEO of The Freedom Fund. “Gender bias and systemic discrimination are factors that make women and girls particularly vulnerable to modern slavery in the first place. We must center our work around the leadership of women and survivors in order to address these underlying causes. We believe we can transform the face of the movement one leader at a time, and we must start now.

Click here to watch a short film about Freedom Rising: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVZdiSU1e6w

The program is designed to support leaders through a personal learning journey that provides the skills and space for participants to experience, analyze and apply their learning. Not only must women and survivors work through their experiences of trauma and bias, they must also learn new approaches to leadership in a culture where their voices are chronically undervalued or dismissed.

Each cohort of 50 leaders will receive a minimum of 12 months of mentorship, leadership and technical skills training, before graduating to join the Freedom Rising alumni network. Due to COVID-19, the program has been adapted to provide online learning until the in-person training can be safely delivered.

We invested in Freedom Rising because we believe that transformational change comes only when women are in leadership positions and in influential roles sharing power and exerting influence,” said Natasha Dolby, founder of Freedom Forward and board member of the Freedom Fund. “These women are the best positioned to understand, analyze and shape what needs to happen in their organizations and communities, and with the anti-slavery movement at-large. We’re aware that changing norms takes time, but we’re behind the Freedom Fund’s vision that we must start now, when multiple pandemics that impact women worldwide have converged.

Freedom Rising differs from many other leadership programs in its explicit focus on building a stronger, more strategic, and more representative anti-slavery movement. After completing the year-long leadership training, participants will be formally introduced to the program’s alumni network, enabling them to continue to build and strengthen connections at the local, regional and international levels. The program will be piloted in Tamil Nadu in Southern India throughout 2021. Learnings from the pilot will be used to adapt and improve the program before its rollout. The curriculum will then be tailored to the specific needs and contexts of each training location, and delivered in local languages.

Initiatives to support women’s leadership like this one are crucial, especially at this critical moment, as the world battles a global pandemic,” said Nada Al-Nashif, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights. “We know that putting women at the center, indeed ensuring women are at the helm, will help.


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