From tattoos to Christmas cake, 7 unique ways into life after slavery

by Matt Blomberg | @BlombergMD | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 30 December 2019 01:00 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: Aye Than Dar (R) holds the hand of her sister Hla Thidar Myint (L) at a park in Bangkok, Thailand, November 14, 2015. When Aye Than Dar and her little sister Hla Thidar Myint paid a broker in Myanmar's Mon state to smuggle them to Thailand for domestic work, it was the start of a decade-long ordeal that would see the pair separated and Hla held as a slave. Picture taken November 14, 2015. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

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More efforts are being taken to help people rescued from extreme exploitation, from using bikes, to cakes to hairdressing, and stop them from returning into a life of servitude

By Matt Blomberg

PHNOM PENH, Dec 30 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - With awareness over modern-day slavery mounting in 2019, more efforts are being taken to help people rescued from extreme exploitation, from using bikes, to cakes to hairdressing, and stop them from returning into a life of servitude.

An estimated 40 million people globally are trapped in various forms of slavery, with governments and businesses developing more policies to address its causes and effects and varying organisations trying to help those abused.

As we enter a new decade, the Thomson Reuters Foundation highlights 7 unique initiatives helping survivors of slavery to break the cycle and rediscover their place in the world:

1. In the United States, Survivors Ink helps victims of sex trafficking who have been tattooed for the purpose of identification with a brand, serial number, or a pimp's name. The grassroots project helps people take back ownership of their bodies and lives with artists tattooing over these markers.

2. India's Beti Zindabard Bakery is run by a team of survivors, producing breads and sweets year round for the small town of Kansabel in central-eastern India. As year-end approaches, their workload skyrockets due to a large Christian population in Chhattisgarh state and demand for Christmas cake.

3. At Outland Denim in Cambodia, survivors make jeans with a message. The boutique factory went viral when Meghan Markle was photographed wearing a pair of the jeans into which seamstresses stitch their personal stories in a pocket.

4. Kranti works with women and girls in Mumbai's red light district by helping to assess their talent and desires. One sex worker's daughter learned to play drums, won a scholarship to the United States, and is now home teaching music to the next generation.

5. Bagel Bejgl is a gourmet sandwich shop in downtown Belgrade in Serbia that has been employing survivors to make and deliver their creations for 12 years, while pumping profits back into the fight against trafficking in Eastern Europe.

6. The Kate Korpi Salon in central Phnom Penh is the go-to place for Cambodia's A-list ahead where the stylists - who go through a rigorous two-year apprenticeship - arrive via charities that work with young men and women with dark pasts.

7. Bikes in Bamboo in northern Chiang Mai on the Thai border with Myanmar aims to disrupt the flow of migrants into exploitation by employing them to make bikes from bamboo and hemp resin for export around the world. The first orders are set to go out at the start of 2020. (Reporting by Matt Blomberg @BlombergMD; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit

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