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Society and communities

Slavery survivor voices shape anti-slavery action

The University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab was created in response to UN Sustainable Development Goal 8.7: to end slavery in every corner of the world by 2030.

The Rights Lab is supporting this mission through research that shapes national and international strategies for ending the enslavement of an estimated 40 million people globally.

It is the world’s largest and leading group of modern slavery researchers, and Rights Lab scholars are fighting slavery from every angle: whether exposing it in developed countries through scrutiny of supply chains; mapping slavery from space in countries with fish farms, brick-making kilns or deforestation camps; or proposing new anti-slavery policies based on slavery survivors’ own narratives.

"The University of Nottingham will play a key role in ending slavery."
Professor Zoe Trodd

Key to the Rights Lab’s work is putting survivors’ voices at the heart of the anti-slavery movement. Professor Zoe Trodd has been the Director of the Rights Lab since its inception. Her leadership has been central in establishing the policy value of survivor narratives.

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council, Professor Trodd and the Rights Lab have created an unprecedented database of contemporary slave testimonies: Voices: Narratives by Survivors of Modern Slavery, the world's largest archive of modern slavery survivor narratives. This informs policy-makers in survivors’ own words about why and where slavery persists, and how best to tackle it.

Further research by Professor Trodd has put modern slavery survivor voices at the heart of anti-slavery efforts. For example, she analysed survivor narratives to provide a definition of modern slavery that could be used by policymakers and frontline workers. Her analysis of the narratives revealed survivors’ definitions of modern slavery, and showed what these definitions reveal about how best to tackle the problem.

Professor Trodd’s research, including findings from the Voices database, has led to improvements in the quality of anti-slavery policies and practices—shaping the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, the programmes of multiple NGOs, and the national policies and frameworks of the UK Home Office and the Care Quality Commission, among other government and intergovernmental policies.

Working as both an individual scholar and as the director of the Rights Lab, Professor Trodd also has collaborated with a survivor leader and University of Nottingham scholar, Dr Minh Dang, as Dr Dang established and grew the Survivor Alliance, the world’s first survivor-led NGO that empowers survivors to be anti-slavery leaders. The Alliance launched in April 2018, was incubated in the Rights Lab for its first year, then became an independent not-for-profit that works in partnership with the Rights Lab.

The Survivor Alliance organises and coordinates survivor leadership in the UK and globally. Professor Trodd said: “The Survivor Alliance moves survivors from being occasional spokespeople to strategic thinkers and movement leaders.”

She added: “To help achieve UN SDG target 8.7, we are working as part of a global community of survivors, policymakers, civil society actors and businesses with a shared vision of ending slavery in our lifetime. I am proud that the University of Nottingham will play a key role in helping to end global slavery.”


40.3 million people enslaved around the world

15.4 million in forced marriage

24.9 million in forced labour

$354 billion dollars of imports by G20 countries "at risk" of links to slavery. Source: 2018 Global Slavery Index

4 Rights Lab researchers in top 100 2018 UK modern slavery influencers 

1.2 billion audience reach for the Rights Lab print, online, broadcast and media coverage in 2017/18

200+ local, national and international individuals or organisations in the Rights Lab partner network 

The Rights Lab

The Rights Lab is one of the University of Nottingham’s Beacons of Excellence: mission-driven research programmes that focus on global challenges including green transport, food security, securing low-carbon economies, smart manufacturing and precision medical imaging.

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