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October 3, 2011

This is the part where I’m supposed to say how sorry I am for not posting in a full 2 months, but the truth is I’m not. Not because I haven’t wanted to be a good blogger, but because I simply couldn’t. My dissertation took every bit of brain power I had, and every word I typed belonged to it (bar Facebook chatting, which was essential to my sanity).

Seriously, writing my dissertation was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I battled with every paragraph. But the day after it was done, I sat in Subway, and I thought, “I’m actually finished with my dissertation. And I wrote it on something I’m passionate about…something that I think really matters.” And I just felt like the luckiest girl in the world.

I want to share my conclusion here for a couple of reasons. First, many of you probably saw countless Tweets and status updates about it, and you might’ve gotten curious. (Not likely, but possible.) Second, like I said, I think it’s something that matters. It demands action, so I might as well put it out there, and this is the only platform I have. And third, I worked so hard on it, and I’m so proud of it, that I don’t want to just keep it to myself. For contextual purposes the title is Foundations of Freedom:  The potential for progress within the anti-slavery movement through the implementation of a human development perspective.


       The purpose of this dissertation has been to broaden the prospects of the current anti-slavery movement. Contemporary slavery is hallmarked by its varied manifestations around the world. It is a complex and difficult issue. Many – though not all – methods used against slavery have been reactionary. Because some of the primary causal factors of slavery can be identified, preventative measures to stop slavery from happening can be implemented. This will enable the anti-slavery movement to work ahead of those who would enslave the vulnerable, rather than only in reaction to them.

       In order to better and more effectively tackle the slavery problem, we must understand the roots of contemporary slavery. Vulnerability to slavery is caused by several factors, chiefly poverty and related conditions, including, but not limited to, lack of education and inadequate health care. These causal factors are already being addressed by actors within the development sector. If actors within the anti-slavery movement are going to take action to proactively reduce the number of slaves in the world in the coming years, then they must recognize that the impoverished people of the world need realistic, practical livelihood options that protect them from the vulnerability that exposes them to exploitation.

       Human development, specifically Amartya Sen’s Capabilities Approach, focuses on improving the real opportunities people have to lead free, stable lives. This approach to development does not only seek to achieve economic well being, but also aims for political freedoms, physical and emotional health, and educational opportunities for everyone. At the beginning of Chapter 2, I quoted Kevin Bales when he said this: “In the long term, wiping out slavery requires helping the world’s poor to gain greater control of their own lives.”[1] This is at the heart of the human development movement. If to “wipe out slavery” we need to pursue the very same goals as the human development movement, it seems that cooperation is a logical next step. This cooperation needs to take place at every level. International organizations, national governments, anti-slavery and development NGOs must each find ways to integrate these two goals.

        Every step forward in human development today not only affects existing vulnerable populations, but it also has the potential to benefit generations to come. More economic and educational opportunities today may lead to even greater stability and thus greater opportunity tomorrow. In this way, development combined with anti-slavery efforts does in fact become a foundation of freedom, not only for today, but for future generations.

       It must be restated that the anti-slavery and development integration approach is not a guaranteed universal remedy for contemporary slavery. First of all, it needs to be tried and tested in various situations around the world. Both success stories and failures must be shared and discussed. Secondly, anti-slavery must not renounce other approaches. Because the development approach will not be a cure-all, other methods must continue being used. As varied and complex as contemporary slavery is, so must the fight against it be. Different methods will be needed to fight different forms of slavery. Without question, it will prove to be a difficult fight, but it is one well worth fighting.

[1] Bales, Disposable People, p. 235 (emphasis added).

8 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2011 7:31 pm

    Beaming with pride and excitement for the hope of the future that you’re gonna affect. So happy…

    • October 11, 2011 7:40 pm

      Thanks, Nikki!!! Love you! Thank you for always being so wonderfully encouraging. 🙂

  2. sue permalink
    October 3, 2011 7:43 pm

    Well stated, my dear!

  3. Mary permalink
    October 10, 2011 8:19 pm

    Michelle, you are one of the smartest people I know! I can’t wait to see all the good you will do in the anti-slavery movement. So so proud of you, sweet friend!

    • October 11, 2011 7:41 pm

      Mary! You are TOO kind. Thank you, friend! I love you SO much and am so thankful for your constant support.


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