The first Voice of Freedom workshops took place at the Ma’agan Safe House for trafficked women in Petach Tikva, Israel, in October 2013—you can see powerful work created by the women here. The Safe House shelters women who were trafficked to Israel, and who have now escaped. Some of the women who live there have given evidence against their former captors, as well as suffering traumatic and violent journeys at the hands of traffickers through Sudan and the Sinai desert.
The women discussed their experiences and expressed their stories, feelings and messages through photography. Some workshops took place on location – seaside, mountain, village – guided by the women’s ideas of where best to express their stories. Others were local to the shelter, and involved daily activities such as cooking, work, worship and music. The women discussed and explained what their photographs meant to them, and created texts to go alongside the images.
The workshops were led by project director Leila Segal, and supported by a professional photographer, interpreter and staff of the Ma’agan Safe House.
Voice of Freedom exhibited work at Junction Eleven studios, London, in November 2013; and at The London Art Fair in January 2014. Amnesty International UK hosted a major exhibition of work from the project from 16 April to 13 May, 2014. In January 2015
Anti-Slavery International shared work from the project on its website, giving women on the project a voice worldwide. In April 2015 global anti-trafficking campaigners Walk Free shared work from Voice of Freedom on its Facebook page, reaching an audience of more than six million people.
From November 2014 to July 2015 we worked in London, in partnership with the Helen Bamber Foundation, with a group of women from Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Albania and China – all of whom escaped slavery and are going on to build new lives. Work from this phase of the project was exhibited in February 2015 at Matrix Chambers, a barristers’ set in London specialising in human rights. The Helen Bamber Foundation has showcased work from project here.
In October 2015, Work from Voice of Freedom was exhibited at the Kingsway Hall Hotel, 66 Great Queen St, London WC2B 5BX. This exhibition was commissioned by the Shiva Foundation for its Women for Change breakfast club.
From June 3 to August 31, 2016, work from Voice of Freedom was on display at Imageworks Gallery, 49 Carter Lane, London EC4V 5AE. Voice of Freedom is grateful to Imageworks for donating their time and space to support us.
In June and July 2017, we collaborated with Anti-Slavery International, who published the women’s photographs and stories, and a feature article by project director Leila Segal, in its Reporter Magazine and on its website, to spearhead its new Victim Protection Campaign, drawing attention to the need for protection and support of trafficking victims in the UK.
In October 2017, we ran workshops with 10 Nigerian women, living in the Piam Onlus shelter in Asti, who had been trafficked via Libya to Italy.
In January 2018 we met the Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales to discuss how work by women on Voice of Freedom can feed into her work with survivors of trafficking, violence and crime in the UK.
In June 2018 we held an exhibition of work by women on the Voice of Freedom project at the Polo del ‘900 cultural centre in Turin. We were proud to have the support of the VII Foundation and Canon for this exhibition. You can watch a short film about the exhibition here.
Turin, the nearest large city to Asti, is a centre for the arts, with a politically engaged population, and many refugees from African countries. The idea was for the exhibition to draw attention to the issues connected with trafficking, and for the stories to be told by the trafficked women themselves, so that the local community could learn about them, and local refugee groups could use the exhibition as a resource for their clients and for wider education on the problems they face, both in Italy and in their countries of origin. This exhibition was part of the Foto Festival of photography in Turin.
The exhibition proved very successful. Nine of the 10 women who had participated in the programme at Piam Onlus attended the opening, making public presentations of their work and engaging with members of the public directly. We held a panel discussion, with Monica Cerutti, the Assessora of the Regione Piedmonte, and an anti-trafficking campaigner; Guido Vaglio, director of Turin’s Museo Diffuso della Resistenza; Alberto Mossino, director of Piam Onlus shelter; and Giangavino Pazzola, of Camera, Turin’s leading photographic gallery. Two women from the Voice of Freedom programme chose to speak on this panel.
In August 2018 photography by women on the project was used in: Freedom networks: researching UK anti-slavery civil society, a research report from the Office of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner and the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab.
In September 2018 Voice of Freedom made a successful application to the Thomson Reuters Trust Law programme, giving Voice of Freedom access to the Trust Law’s pro bono legal advice services for NGOs.
In October 2018, Leila Segal spoke at the Communicate 2018: the Art of the Possible conference in Bristol. She showed work by women on Voice of Freedom, and explained how the project’s workshops facilitate storytelling and anti-trafficking advocacy.
In November 2018 we partnered with the Thomson Reuters Foundation to exhibit at their Trust Conference in central London. We showed photography by Nigerian women who had participated in Voice of Freedom workshops in Italy, after being trafficked there via Libya. One of our project participants, Sarah Oyediran, was awarded a scholarship by the Foundation to attend the conference and present her photography. Sarah was interviewed at the conference by the BBC World Service Newshour, for a feature about her work with Voice of Freedom.
In March 2019 we partnered with the Nottingham Rights Lab to mount a permanent exhibition of photography by women on the Voice of Freedom project, launched with a talk by Voice of Freedom director Leila Segal, alongside Emily Brady of the Rights Lab. The Rights Lab specialises in ethically-produced survivor-led imagery about modern-day slavery, and used Voice of Freedom as an example of best practice in the field at a presentation they gave at Hyson Green Cultural Festival on 9 May 2017.
On International Women’s Day, 8 March 2019, Sky News featured work from the project: Tessy Gold, a survivor of trafficking from Nigeria to Italy via Libya, worked hard with us to create powerful photos and text, which Sky used to highlight the issue of modern slavery today.
In July 2019 by women on Voice of Freedom were featured in an official report on The Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill. We tell women on Voice of Freedom that their work can reach those with power; we say: ‘you can have a voice.’ Survivors of trafficking must be heard – their ideas are rightly shaping policy now. You can see the report here.