Voice of Freedom: A Spotlight

by Kallum Mehta

14 September 2020

Voice of Freedom works with people who have escaped trafficking and torture, bringing the voices of the enslaved to the wider public for the first time. The charity enables survivors to document their lives, feelings and experiences through the camera lens, and supports them as they create texts in their own words to accompany the images. Their partners include Anti-Slavery International, the Human Trafficking Foundation and the Nottingham Rights Lab, one of the UK’s foremost anti-slavery research bodies.

To celebrate the vital work that Voice of Freedom has been doing to empower victims of human trafficking, we have compiled this blog post to showcase some of the photography which has been captured by their survivors. Check out their fundraising page here, and read on to see the inspiring work that Voice of Freedom champion. All photos and captions were produced by the survivors, courtesy of Voice of Freedom.


Emanuel Joyce

Photo 1 (Iron)


Many people use this to iron clothes. But there is another thing they use the iron for.
Most of the madames that brought girls to Europe use the same iron to maltreat people. They use it when the girls refuse to pay the money. They will plug the iron and put it on her body.
Even a friend of mine, she showed me her back where her madame plugged the iron and press it on her. It is very bad for a human being to use an iron that is plugged, to put it on someone’s body, all in the name of money.
Emmanuel Joyce 

Photo 2 (Cutlery)

I took this picture for two reasons. The first reason is, when I was in Libya, when we were in ghetto, we slept like this. No fresh air, nothing nothing. Some people even died there. And the second reason why I took this picture is, this is how people died in the boat while crossing to Europe.
Emmanuel Joyce 

Photo 3 (Window)

I took this picture when I wake up in the morning. Each time I wake up, I open the window, tidying everywhere. In Nigeria we don’t have curtain, we don’t have windows like this – we have iron window, and even if you want to look outside, you can’t. You can only peep.
This is the ninth floor. Where I live in village is just ordinary house, there is no step.
I took it to remember my background. There is even those houses at the back. In our village there are only bushes around.
Emmanuel Joyce

Efe Bella

Photo 1 (Carrying water on head)

In Nigeria we sell water. This is what I put on my head. Back in Nigeria it’s not actually like this – we look sad, we look dirty. I do some menial jobs to help myself, to also help my mother. I sell the water for 5 naira.
In Nigeria the weather is always hot so we put water in the fridge to make it cold, very cold. Then we put it on our head. We go to the park, to the street, to every place to sell.
This picture also signifies suffering because the time you are supposed to go to school is the time you are selling. They are suffering in Nigeria. Big suffering. It’s poverty.
Efe Bella 

Photo 2 (Feet)

This picture reminds me of the journey, when we were about to enter the desert. When they put us in the hilos [truck], that’s how we sat. I saw them
start arranging people and I was afraid.
Even on top of the sea, this is how I sat, and I cried throughout. Almost 12 hours in the boat. We are more than hundred. We can’t see the sea because girls have to sit in the bottom of the boat.
I sit like this whenever I am depressed. My dream is to become an accountant but because of the situation we are in now, we can’t easily access education. If you want to go to university you need resources, back-up, connections.
But you just turn out to be – black.
Efe Bella 

Photo 3 (Waterfall)

When I saw this waterfall, I thought, where is this water coming from? Where is it going to? Human beings all came from somewhere, and we all have somewhere we are going. Everybody has a source.
The water is drinkable, natural. This water is clean. The water is actually coming out of rock. It can not dry up – so my hope can not die.
Efe Bella 

Photo 4 (Fish)

In my village, we have a river to catch fish. The fish can’t survive out of the water. Water is the source of life.
Water can save, and water can kill. If I had fallen inside the sea on my journey, I wouldn’t have survived. Sea water contains salt, you can’t drink it – so even if you can swim, you won’t survive.
Efe Bella 

Photo 5 (Woman in kitchen)

Back in Nigeria we didn’t have a cooker like this. We cooked with firewood, we had to enter the bush and cut it to make the fire. We sat on the floor.
In the old days, we believed that a woman’s education ended in the kitchen.
No matter how educated you are, you still get married and become a housewife. But I don’t want to be dependent on any man. I want to have my own business, get anything I want from my own pocket, make my own decisions.
I don’t want my own children to suffer the way I suffered. I want to have enough money to make adequate preparations, give them best education, provide for them.
Efe Bella 

Unity Jay

Photo 1 (Statue)

I took this picture because of my grandmother’s village. We have a lot of images like this in the village and ever since I came to Europe I haven’t seen them so much.
I don’t know who made them but they made it with their hands, using clay – they are artists. It’s a way to remember people who have passed away. They leave it outside so everyone will see and remember the person, that he was good.
Unity Jay 

Photo 2 (Woman Eating)

 I snapped this picture because when they were eating it was like people who were in a prison, in particular where someone from Italy brought them. They are suffering inside the house, can’t come out.
They are in a prison inside a room. No freedom. You can see she’s using her own hand to eat, no spoon. They don’t have good care.
Unity Jay 

Photo 3 (Woman in front of mirror)

I took this picture like someone who is in darkness, just coming out. Like they have been in darkness for years, now they come out to see the light.
Unity Jay 

Photo 4 (Woman washing)

Here we don’t wash by hand, because we have washing machines. Back in Africa we don’t have washing machines, you wash clothes with your hands. The girl in this picture was doing it, and I remember this is how we used to wash clothes back then – even when you are tired you keep on washing.
Unity Jay 

Photo 5 (red wig)

I make these wigs because most people like them. It’s kind of cold, they like wearing a wig. It makes things easier – there’s no need to sit down for five hours, six hours to make your hair. You can just put it on, you can just remove it. I love doing this work – I started when I was small.
In a week I make maybe two – this week I have to do five. Sometimes people tell me what they want, sometimes they don’t tell me and I just use my idea to create the style for them.
Unity Jay 

Photo 6 (Dog)

I love animals. Back in Nigeria I don’t play with them, because most animals they are very very dangerous. But here I love to touch them and play with them.
Here I attend animal school – it’s called ‘Agricoltura’. I studied different types of animals, cows, pig, fowl – they told us how to train them. It’s not just animals, it’s farm work. We studied how they plant the rice. We even learned how to make latte – how to drum it out of cows. Here in Italy you can turn your hand
to anything. One day I might have the opportunity to work in any of these things.
Unity Jay 

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