This year has, for many, been full of heartache, stress, uncertainty, and suffering. It has disrupted our best laid plans and made many things a lot more difficult. Anti-slavery action has been hard to coordinate online and many victims have been driven further underground as the streets have been empty and businesses shut.
Despite these obstacles, the work of The Clewer Initiative and its partners has continued. As we look back on the year, these are our highlights:
February 2020 – we launched a highly successful Lent campaign focusing on Breaking County Lines and held two national strategy meetings for project leads – one at Bishopthorpe, one at Lambeth.
March 2020 – we agreed a substantial project with the World Council of Churches (WCC) to develop anti-slavery initiatives in three pilot countries.
June 2020 – in response to Covid-19, we moved our popular Hidden Voices course online. We strengthened our branding to make it more digital friendly - it is already being used on all of our new materials and will soon be seen on our new and improved website.
July 2020 – we developed and launched the Farm Work Welfare App to support both employers and workers in the rural sector and reduce the prevalence of labour exploitation.
August 2020 – work began on a new website which will be launched in the coming weeks.
September 2020 – we kicked off our Autumn Programme with a round of regional meetings. We also began planning the World Council of Churches (WCC) project, scoping work in Ghana, Tanzania and Italy.
October 2020 – around the UK, Anti-Slavery Day was marked by organisations, individuals, churches and communities. We conducted a successful social media campaign and supported the teams at Ely and Lincoln Cathedral with their hard-hitting photographic exhibitions.
November 2020 – we held the first WCC consultation online with Italian Churches and the first meeting of the Project Board.
December 2020 – we began filming five ‘Women in the Shadows’ films for Lent 2021. We set up an advisory group and held initial meetings for a new Education project.
Throughout the year, we have also helped two victim support projects move forward and spent time on The Clewer Initiative’s organisational development so that we are able to work effectively over the next few years.
At the start of 2020, the University of Nottingham Rights’ Lab published its analysis of the impact of The Clewer’s work so far. This was deeply encouraging as it observed that we have “achieved much to date” but are “still gathering momentum.”
It identified a number of strengths including our “growing roots at diocesan level,” “our resources and training materials that are valued by stakeholders” and “the way in which the initiative provides momentum for anti-slavery action.” These are all areas we are extremely thankful for.
The report noted that “as the Clewer has engaged more fully in anti-slavery work, new complexities and areas for consideration have emerged” and that there are “a number of areas where the Clewer could deepen and extend its impact.” It was helpful to have an external organisation identify some of these challenges. For example, the importance of “adequately resourcing the work of co-ordination at the local level to ensure that new initiatives add value instead of increasing fragmentation” and “a call to work at the macro-level to challenge injustice as well as the micro-level.”
As 2020 comes to a close, we have a sense of ‘kairos’ that drives us on – we are thankful for the hundreds of individuals and organisations across the UK who share our calling and desire to care for the poor and marginalised. The Clewer Initiative is in a unique position which means we can campaign at both a macro and micro level. Over the coming year, we intend to use our voice to influence national policy and to take advantage of the Church of England’s extensive local networks and widespread geographical presence to bring about change at grass roots level.
We pray that the coming year will bring greater stability and calm and enable us, along with our many partners, to get on with this important task of eradicating modern slavery. May God Bless You this Christmas.