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Sophie Otiende, CEO of the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery, on creating a survivor-led environment

The CEO of the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery, Sophie Otiende, advocates for a survivor-led environment, enabling those with lived experience to have space, use their voice and become leaders in tackling modern slavery.

Sophie was trafficked as a child and is herself a survivor-leader; she knows what it feels like to be in a policy discussion where she’s the only person in the room who’s actually experienced human trafficking and to realise that the others in that room are observers of this problem.

At the Fund, they have developed a unique toolkit to help organisations understand themselves better and develop a roadmap enabling them to bring survivors into decision-making leadership positions. You can’t just tell people that something is wrong. You need to provide them with tools and roadmaps that lead to the meaningful inclusion of those who have lived experience.

There are many facets to this, from being mindful of the language that is used so that it’s accessible to everyone – not just policymakers or academics – to appreciating the power dynamics between funders and beneficiaries. Oftentimes, beneficiaries feel a sense of indignity and struggle to find their voice and make their views known.

In the past, most of the leaders tackling modern slavery have not had lived experience, which means most policies and programmes were defined by people who observe the problem but haven’t actually experienced it. Lived experience provides a unique vantage point that leads to different priorities and a unique understanding.

About Sophie Otiende

Sophie Otiende defines herself as a feminist, teacher, and survivor advocate for survivors of trafficking. Her work has mainly focused on developing systems and processes for grassroots organizations.

The past eight years she has focused on creating ethical standards for protection of survivors of trafficking, developing systems for organizations, training, and development of curriculum on both protection and awareness of human trafficking.

Her advocacy on standards of care and survivor engagement has made her a sought-after international speaker. She is also passionate about ethical engagement of survivors of trafficking in the sector and ethical storytelling.

Sophie firmly believes in a future where empathy, harmony and trust can be articulated in processes and systems in institutions seamlessly.

Sophie has a degree in education. She is a 2015 Vital Voices Fellow and the recipient of the US Trafficking in Persons Report Hero 2020. She previously worked as the Regional Operations Manager – Africa for Liberty Shared and later as the Director of Consulting for Survivor Alliance. She has also served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS).

She is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery and the founder of a survivor led initiative in Kenya called Azadi that focuses on supporting survivors of trafficking with long term care and leadership skills to engage more in the human rights space.


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