An Anti-Slavery Guide to Christmas Gifts: Gifts that go further

‘Is your bargain more sinister than it appears?’ #ModernDaySlavery

The Christmas period has become synonymous with consumerism. Black Friday, Boxing Day and January sales, all with one common theme – finding the best deal. What we don’t often realise is that however good the bargain is, what you’re purchasing may be more sinister than it appears.

What are we referring to, you ask? Slavery. A widespread, global issue with an estimated 40-45 million people live in slavery today* and a vast majority of those are in forced labour and exploitation, most likely most likely producing your Christmas gifts. Modern Slavery manifests itself on our doorstep, not only in the estimated 13,000 victims of modern slavery and human trafficking in the U.K today, but also in the products we buy, the food we eat and the lives we chose to ignore. Stop and ask yourself, is that price too good to be true? The real cost could be human lives and human dignity.

Money fuels slavery. Slavery is known as one of the most profitable enterprises in the world with an estimated annual profit of $150 billion. Understanding the products we buy, beyond their primary value, enables us to speak with our money and support brands that you are proud to be an advocate of. So, before you go out and purchase your holiday season bargains, take a moment and think. How can I really make a difference, no matter how small it may be? Every small action you take, could play a part in helping to combat modern day slavery.

So where do you start? We’ve put together a guide to help you make more ethical purchases this holiday season. Think before you buy – your purchases could have an impact beyond their sale price.

Wondering how ethical you are? Why not try this insightful website that tracks your slavery footprint:

Ethical Consumerism


The Modern Slavery Act of 2015 was a pioneer of legislation against human trafficking. The act promised heightened political consciousness and support from the government against modern slavery. One fundamental aspect of it addresses the transparency of businesses across their supply chains. Transparency is essential in illuminating the daily realities of modern slavery and combatting human trafficking.

The fashion market is one business infamous for numerous scandals of human right exploitations and profiteering from modern day slavery. War on want’s anti-sweatshop campaign ‘Love Fashion, Hate Sweatshops’ breathes new meaning into the phrase ‘fashion victims’, whereby the true victims of fashion are revealed. Films such as The True Cost expose the dark realities of the global market and sweatshops. However, movements such as the Fashion Revolution, are now questioning “who made my clothes” and apps such as Not My Style encourage more engagement with supply chains not only from business, but also from the consumer.

With Fairtrade you have the power to change the world every day. With simple shopping choices you can get farmers a better deal. And that means they can make their own decisions, control their futures and lead the dignified life everyone deserves.”

Fairtrade Foundation.
Here are some Fairtrade brands we recommend that are transparent across their supply chains and hold social consciousness at their core:

 “We are committed to producing garments of the highest quality while being honest and transparent in our practices. It is easy to ignore people we don’t know.  So, let’s change that

visible-logo-with-text2 Visible Clothing – recommended on the Fairtrade website, Visible Clothing offers fashion for men, women and children. They believe in total visibility and have a strong commitment to ethics. Motivated by sustainability and fair treatment of all workers, their core values of fairness, sustainability, and fun visible clothing guarantees a DNA of fairness behind its people, products and pricing. To find out more about them, watch their story.

How you buy your clothing impacts millions of people and communities around the world.” 

download (2) Know the Origin is majorly focused on transparency from ‘Seed to Garment’. This ethical clothing organisation champions respect towards people and the environment by maintaining Fairtrade practices, using organic cotton and consistently visiting all parts of their supply chain to ensure transparency and the protection of workers dignity and rights across all manufacturing aspects. Watch this video to find out more.

Fashion that’s fairer for women.

LogoBirdsong’s fundamentals are ‘no sweatshops, no photoshop’. Originally created to fight against the exploitation of women workers in the fashion industry, they are also passionate about and dedicated to demystifying the female form, showing the reality of what women look like by using unedited models. For more information see here.

From migrant seamstresses to knitting grannies, we connect women from worker to wearer.”

“When you wear People Tree, you look good and feel good knowing your unique garment was made with respect for people and the planet.

peopletree-new-strap-black-900x176 People Tree – providing Fairtrade fashion for over 25 years, People Tree is a pioneer in ethical and sustainable fashion. Rated as one of the most exemplary brands for Fairtrade fashion, its ethos is all around respecting people and the planet and they are accredited by the WFTO, the Fairtrade Foundation, and the Soil Association. The brand is also against the fast fashion industry and is part of the Slow Fashion movement. Guaranteeing environmental and social responsibility is at the heart of what they do. Find out more.


Charity Shops:

One area of shopping that is underestimated for its gift buying value whilst simultaneously giving back are charity shops. They’re great for recycling items whilst also breaking the direct chain of production from factories. Moreover, they are great for that much sought-after bargain!

To help, below is a list of common high street charity stores in the UK:

Be more aware

Why not give the gift of awareness this Christmas? Below is a list of books which we recommend for those interested in finding out more about the issues surrounding modern day slavery:

The Sophie Hayes story – Trafficked

If you haven’t already read our founding story, this personal account is central to The Sophie Hayes Foundation. Sophie was a white, middle class, British girl sex trafficked from the U.K into Italy. This account speaks of her grooming and horrific ordeal when she realised she was to be forced to work on the streets for her trafficker, to finally being able to escape his exploitation and share her story.

Sunny Angel – Wings

A touching, personal survivor’s account of grooming, exploitation and manipulation. Sunny now shares her story Wings as a symbol of hope and survival, preaching that there is ‘no shame in being a victim’ and not to suffer in silence.

Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn –  Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

An inspiring book that speaks to the human rights and global oppression of women. An essential book on female voices that even motivated some of our team at Sophie Hayes to dedicate their time to join the fight against Human Trafficking!

Anna Ruston Secret Slave

Another personal account of a British girl kidnapped, abused as a sex slave for 13 years and prostituted by her captor.


Christmas is a time for giving thanks and charity. Asking for a donation in place of a gift or simply donating money this Christmas to a worthy cause like The Sophie Hayes Foundation is a really simple way to make an impact in helping to combat modern day slavery. All donations will help us to support and empower survivors of human trafficking and help them build their hope-filled futures.

For more information on our involvement and how fight against modern day slavery and human trafficking, visit:

If you want to Donate to The Sophie Hayes Foundation click here.

This festive season, think about buying gifts that speak beyond their primary purpose to a wider community of humans. Be mindful with your money. Your purchases could be contributing to protecting the rights of workers.

Written by: Sakira Intrabal

Edited by: Michelle Moreland

For more related reading go to:



The ILO & Walkfree Foundation

Photo credit:

Jen Timms on Unsplash

Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Called Dimmoc on Unsplash






Fighting modern day slavery with… creativity?

When you read the words ‘tackling modern day slavery’, what comes to mind?

Perhaps you picture a safehouse; perhaps a police officer. You might associate the phrase with a number of charities, or maybe you think of bills being discussed in Parliament.

But here’s a word that may not have been immediately obvious – creativity.

Maybe your mind draws a line, and ‘tackling modern day slavery’ falls on the side with the facts and figures, strategy and communication.

Of course, doing battle with atrocities like sex trafficking and domestic servitude requires all of those things. But what if we added to this arsenal? What if we began to see creativity and the arts as an equally powerful weapon in the fight against modern day slavery?

The arts have a way of evoking an emotional response in a way that facts and figures simply cannot. A pen, a paintbrush, a camera, a song, a movement – all of these can tell memorable stories that have the potential to live on for centuries.

The arts connect us to someone else’s experience, bonding us in our shared humanity. The arts have an enormous impact on how we think and what we believe – think, for example, about how fashion has evolved to reflect the spirit of the age, of how music echoes a progressing culture, or of how media exposure influences public opinion on big social issues.

Creativity reminds us that in the battle against modern day slavery, there is hope. When we create, we’re not only having fun; we’re adding something new to the world. While human trafficking and slavery seek to dehumanise and destroy, creative expression actually wages war on the lie that people can be reduced to commodities, because the very act of creating something demonstrates value and worth.

But like anything, creativity can still be used for good or for evil. Sadly, this means that the entertainment industry often perpetuates the objectification and devaluation of human beings. Pornography in particular has a direct correlation with the demand for human trafficking[1] – but even the music industry, television and advertising can send out messages that promote oversexualisation and commodification. Some of these messages are subtle, others more obvious.

We need to fight back if we want to see an end to modern day slavery. Imagine that the creative arts fully celebrated the worth of human beings rather than sought to exploit them. While this may seem a distant reality, it’s something to work towards.

Though science seems to agree that some people exhibit more ‘creative’ personality traits than others[2], creativity takes many forms and we all have the capacity to be creative in one way or another. It seems to be written into our very DNA to invent and design and build and beautify.

So if you have a creative skill, you have the power to be an agent of change by raising awareness and maybe even by raising funds through selling your creations.

At The Sophie Hayes Foundation we believe having fun is key in this fight! In the week running up to Anti Slavery Day today (18th October), we have been showcasing pieces of artwork (they can be drawings, paintings, collages, photographs or the like) from artists and from some of the survivors we work with, to raise awareness of modern day slavery and remind us that this is a battle all of us can help to fight. Our aim is to depict our survivors as we see them – as heroes on a journey of hope and restoration.

We have been sharing the contributions on social media and we will also be sharing them on our website, so do check back to enjoy the art displayed and perhaps get inspired to create something yourself!

By Camilla Olim



Feeling compelled to act

Charity lead Naomi Telfer will be speaking at the upcoming Women for Change event,

“Tackling Modern Slavery: Raising Awareness & Supporting Survivors” on 22 September from 19.15 to 21.30. All proceeds will go to the Sophie Hayes Foundation. 

This post was first published on the Women for Change and the Shiva Foundation websites.

I’ll never forget the first time I met a survivor of trafficking in the UK. I was pretty nervous, trying hard not to show it. Although I’d worked in a safehouse in Asia, when you’re on home turf it’s different somehow. There are so many numbers and statistics at play around modern day slavery, sometimes it feels a bit removed, a bit abstract. But when you meet a survivor, the statistics grow skin and numbers become names. What you once heard, you now know to be true.

What do I mean by modern day slave; a survivor of human trafficking? A survivor of human trafficking is someone who has been exploited through forced labour, sex, forced crime, forced begging, domestic servitude, forced marriage, warfare or through having their organs removed and sold. It’s a lucrative business for the perpetrators, a $32 Billion industry.

When we talk about approximately 30 million[1] slaves in the world, the number is so sickeningly high it’s hard to imagine. You can quantify it by picturing half of the United Kingdom in slavery, or Ireland 6 times over. And then I can tell you that our portion of this, present right now in the UK, is around 13000 modern day slaves. It means that wherever you are reading this from, you’re probably not too far away from a slave, especially if you are in a city. There’s the obvious places, like nail bars, sex clubs, marijuana farms. And the less obvious places, like the millionaires house next door, a building site or a bedroom in an apartment down the road. In just 2015, 3266 victims, primarily from Albania, Romania, Poland, the UK, Vietnam and Nigeria, were identified in the UK. That was 40% more than the year before.

But I want to take that number closer to home. 2 eyes. 1 big smile. That smile was her most distinctive feature, ‘Brave and Beautiful’[2]. With bright eyes, she jumped up to greet us as we walked into the safehouse. Eager to learn, eager to connect, eager to move forward. We were there for the purpose of running our Day 46 Programme[3], our employability workshop – and she was ready. Ready to leave the past behind and to create a new future. She’d ended up in slavery from a very young age – sold by her uncle into prostitution after her father died. She was uneducated, unsupported, alone. She was powerless. Her story like so many others I’ve since heard – and you can read it here. The path into slavery is paved far before the crime – and traffickers are trained to spot this inherent vulnerability a mile off. What struck me though is that despite this great injustice and trauma, she still believed that a good outcome, a good future, could come. She had hope. And I’ve seen this same emotion mirrored in so many other survivors of trafficking I’ve worked with since. I’ve come to the conclusion that those who carry this hope are those who overcome. They rebuild their lives, seeing themselves as more than a statistic, a number, and instead a unique story. A story of a life enslaved transforming to a life that’s free. And having been enslaved, survivors know the value of freedom they have in a way we forget.

In our founder’s book, ‘Trafficked’, Sophie wrote about her experience of being trafficked from the UK. Her story has led to many other stories of hope pulling pain into possibility. Indeed, here at Sophie Hayes our whole focus is on life after the safehouse, the longer-term story. Hollywood likes to end the story in the safehouse, but we work to ensure that each survivor we reach is empowered to build a hope-filled future through our confidence workshops, employability coaching and voluntary placement experiences. We help women get training in the things they want to do, so that their story, and their children’s story, changes for good.

We hope as you read these blogs about slavery, you too will feel compelled to act and make your own story count in response. Whether it’s taking the time to check the origin of that new top before you buy it, spending a bit more to go fair trade, being vigilant in nail bars, clubs and public transport or getting involved in the many amazing organisations working as modern day abolitionists, we invite you to join us in the fight for freedom and hope.

By Naomi Telfer

Five ways YOU can tackle modern-day slavery

At this moment in time there are around 46 million people trapped in some form of slavery (1). 46 million people. This is equivalent to the entire population of Spain (2).

We can read these figures and feel overwhelmed at the seemingly insurmountable task of ending modern day slavery and exploitation. You may be asking, what could I possibly do to change things? What difference could I make?

The truth is you can make all the difference, and on behalf of every survivor of slavery, we are asking for your help.

We all have something to give. You may not have much time, you may not have much money, but you have something to give and you can make a difference. The only way that we will end modern day slavery is if we all take action.  And if you need ideas, here are some practical things you can do today:

  1. You can talk – tell your friends, tell your family, tell your colleagues. Let’s raise awareness and add to the numbers of those taking a stand against exploitation. If you can’t do anything else on this list, commit to this one.
  2. You can shop ethically – how many slaves were involved in making the t-shirt you are wearing? Research has highlighted that around 15% of all clothing in our stores is imported to the UK from countries rated as at ‘severe risk’ of modern day slavery (3). The Modern Day Slavery Act 2015 demands that any large business in the UK must publish an annual slavery and trafficking statement, documenting the steps taken to ensure there is no slavery in any part of their business (4). The demand for companies to be transparent in their supply chains empowers us to choose where we spend our money and to make ethical choices.
  3. You can volunteer – there are so many amazing charities and organisations that need your help and your skills, whether you are a lawyer, a social worker, a writer, an administrator or just great at befriending others.
  4. You can give – charities rely on the financial support of those who believe in their vision and their work. You can set up regular giving and use your resources to sustain organisations that are making a direct impact on the lives of survivors of slavery.
  5. You can pray – if you are the praying type, then pray for divine intervention in the lives of those trapped in slavery, for strategies for our politicians, and for wisdom for all those workers on the front lines.

The thing is, we need your help. We just need you to do something. And when you add your something to my something, then together we can do great things.

Together we truly can make a difference and we can be one step closer to ending exploitation and slavery in our lifetime.

Are you up for it?

By Karen Hutchison


Why is trafficking in persons a global issue?

Today on July 30th, the World Day against Trafficking in Persons,  the Sophie Hayes team pauses to acknowledge survivors of human trafficking worldwide, as well as their families and loved ones.

Human trafficking is an unquestionable breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It happens the world over – no region is immune. According to the UN, there are at least 152 countries of origin and 124 countries of destination affected by trafficking in persons (1).

Such figures are undeniably daunting.

Most people wouldn’t blink an eye to hear that countries such as Albania, Vietnam, Nigeria and China are on the list of the top seven most common countries of origin for potential survivors of trafficking. (2)

But most people would be surprised, and no doubt disturbed, to learn that the UK is also on that top seven list.

Enter Sophie Hayes, a British woman who in her 20s was trafficked to Italy from the UK and through emotional and physical abuse was forced into prostitution. She managed to escape after several months.

In her book, ‘Trafficked’, which can be purchased on Amazon, Sophie tells her incredible story and reminds us that this issue is much closer to home than most would ever suspect. It is because of her drawing awareness to this issue that the Sophie Hayes Foundation now exists, and empowers others like her to build hope-filled futures.

As an Australian national, it is also sobering to read that there were 119 new referrals to the Australian Federal Police in 2014-2015 for human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like offences, yet there were no convictions during this period (3).

The first step to being able to eradicate this crime is to understand that it is a global issue, but we all have the power to instigate change where we are.

You may be asking yourself, ‘what can I do?’ The good news is that working together really does make a difference. Earlier this month, the Guardian reported that the Shiva Hotels group will launch an anti-slavery programme for its staff, to train them to spot signs of possible trafficking and effectively take action to help. This is the kind of practical step that we hope will catch on with similar groups. Perhaps you are in a position to initiate something similar in your own workplace?

You may not be working in the hospitality industry or in law enforcement – but you can still help to turn the tide.

A quote attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who was active in the German resistance to the Nazi regime, reads: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil… not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

So at Sophie Hayes, we invite you to talk. Talk to your friends and family and tell them that trafficking happens everywhere. Point them to Sophie’s book to demonstrate that this is not a distant, vague problem but one that could be occurring right on your doorstep.

Be vigilant by reporting any suspicious behavior. You can find examples here.

Consider getting involved with the work of Sophie Hayes – or of one of many other anti-trafficking organisations! Be part of a global movement for change!

And finally, share this blog post and help us spread the word.

By Emily Banger and Camilla Olim




Why women should support women

For most women in the U.K and Australia (and even more so in other parts of the world), the glass ceiling has definitely not broken. Most of us will spend time in our personal and professional lives being treated differently (and often more poorly), solely because of our gender. Women with low confidence can be overworked, whereas women who are deemed to be too assertive can be disliked, and face barriers to further growth in their fields.

How will we fix this problem? How can we change cultural norms that have been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years? I recently read ‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandburg, who had some enlightening suggestions on how women can approach their professional lives, so that they can have the same career progression as men and change the balance of male/female leadership. One example of this was balancing working hard and having strong opinions, with being nice, so as to be still seen to have strong feminine traits which are likeable, and therefore promotable.

I think that one of the quickest and easiest ways for women to progress is to acknowledge prejudice that we have against each other based on our gender (and what we are culturally trained to feel), and to wholeheartedly embrace the empowerment of women around us. For me, this means women who are already leaders going out of their way to provide opportunities for other females to grow. As a volunteer with the Sophie Hayes Foundation, I believe it means working to give women who have been trafficked every opportunity to feel fulfilled within themselves and their future careers. This can be both through practical support, such as CV guidance, and being a listening ear and presence when things are not going so well.

Since I’ve been a part of the Sophie Hayes team, I’ve seen amazing support and empowerment between women. Both the volunteers and the participants of our Day46 programme sing each others’ praises and successes.

I think that with this empowerment harnessed, equality for women can and will be possible.

By Emily Banger