A survivor of sex slavery will speak at a major conference in Hull marking a £1.8m project aimed at tackling modern slavery.
American Shamere McKenzie was forced to spend 18 months working as a prostitute and now runs anti-slavery charity the Sun Gate Foundation. She will speak at the University of Hull’s Anti-Slavery Usable Past conference today, which will bring together experts from around the world at its Wilberforce Institute of Slavery and Emancipation (WISE) to discuss what lessons can be learned from history in tackling slavery today. Ms McKenzie was a promising student before she was coerced into the commercial sex industry, aged 21.
The conference is the first event in a five-year investigation which will look at the successes and failures of earlier abolition movements.
Lead project investigator, Prof Kevin Bales of WISE, said: “There are approximately 36 million slaves alive today - more than at any point in history. From child soldiers to people trafficking, the range of different settings in which people find themselves enslaved at the beginning of the 21st century is truly staggering.
“Our interdisciplinary investigation into anti-slavery legacies, from across history and multiple geographies, will provide an applied knowledge base that’s relevant to the many, disparate forms that modern-day slavery takes and help to galvanise effective resistance to them.
“This project is ultimately about engaging with and inspiring people. In the early 19th century, activists in the first anti-slavery campaigns achieved momentous success by making the horrors of slavery impossible to ignore. Now, in William Wilberforce’s home town, we can build on this legacy, raising awareness of the scourge of modern slavery.”