A project that works with women who have escaped trafficking in Sudan and Sinai.
2013 – 2015
Project Director and Lead Facilitator:
Fundraising and Logistics Volunteer:
Featured Image: © Desta Getaneh, 2013. / Voice of Freedom / PhotoVoice
Voice of Freedom supports African women who have escaped trafficking in the Sudan and Sinai as they speak about their lives through photography and text.
- The goal of the project is to make space for the women to speak, on whatever subject and from whatever perspective they choose.
The first Voice of Freedom workshops took place in October 2013 at the Ma’agan Safe House in Israel, supported by a team from PhotoVoice. The Safe House shelters survivors of human trafficking. Most have escaped the Sinai torture camps, in northern Egypt. These camps are the ultimate destination of those who have been trafficked from Ethiopia and Eritrea through Sudan, being ‘bought’ and ‘sold’ many times along the way. The women are subjected to rape and torture, released only after their families or the international community pay ransom money to those who hold them captive. They are freed by the Egyptian border with Israel, which they cross, finding eventual refuge in the Safe House.
The women we worked with in the Ma’agan Safe House have all escaped the Sinai torture camps in northern Egypt. These camps are the ultimate destination of those who have been trafficked from Ethiopia and Eritrea through Sudan. The UN has called the situation in the Sinai ‘one of the most unreported humanitarian crises in the world’. Not all the photography has to be directly about the experience of being trafficked. It is enough that women who have had these experiences find a way through creativity to express joy, wholeness, hope for the future, and whatever else they wish; to be fully human. Once they began taking photographs, the women had a lot to say. Some wanted to speak about the past, and to become advocates against trafficking in their home communities. Others spoke more obliquely; they created beauty, found wholeness, self-discovery through the lens, with a subtle inflection of experience at its hilt.
Work from Voice of Freedom was previewed for the first time at a Thanksgiving Photography Exhibition in Covent Garden on 28th November 2013, hosted by PhotoVoice’s supporters Junction Eleven. In this short audio slideshow you can hear some reactions from visitors on the day.
Voice of Freedom showed at the London Art Fair in January 2014, where Project Director Leila Segal met visitors and talked more about the work.
Photographs from Voice of Freedom were exhibited at Amnesty International UK in London from 16 April to 13 May.
We also hope to run workshops with Eritrean and Ethiopian refugee communities in London, giving them a chance to add their voices to this project. In the longer-term we would like to disseminate the powerful body of work widely with our partner organisations, all of whom are campaigning against trafficking; and to continue supporting two of the participants as they return to begin a new life in Ethiopia. These two women, Desta Getaneh and Zenebech Zeleke, expressed a particularly strong wish to develop as community advocates against trafficking upon their return home. They both flourished creatively during the course – from having never picked up a camera on Day 1, they were taking sophisticated, expressive photographs by its end.
The Voice of Freedom project was conceived and developed by Leila Segal during 2009-2012. The project works with women who have been trafficked and enslaved, enabling them to document their lives through the camera lens and supporting them as they create texts that accompany the images, raising awareness of modern-day slavery. Between 2013 and 2015 Voice of Freedom partnered with UK participatory photography charity PhotoVoice, with Leila as project director and lead facilitator – the project became extremely successful. From December 2015, Voice of Freedom will no longer be in partnership with PhotoVoice.
Read about Voice of Freedom in the Jewish Chronicle here.