After several months in slavery, Beatrice Fernando reached the point of no return. Standing on a fourth-floor balcony in Beirut, Lebanon, she realized there was “no other way to get home” but to “dive backwards.” In a recent interview she explained of her decision to step off the balcony: “When we take a step against slavery, the world will take another step.”In 1980, at the age of 23, Beatrice had responded to an advertisement for work as a housemaid in Lebanon. She left her home country of Sri Lanka, intending to send money to her parents and her three-year-old son. But in Beirut she became a domestic slave. She was locked inside a home, starved, beaten, never paid, and forbidden from communicating with the outside world. Guards were instructed to shoot her if she tried to leave. After she reached a turning-point and escaped by jumping from the apartment’s fourth floor, she spent 21 days in a coma. Doctors told her that she was paralyzed. After 14 months in hospital she recovered from the paralysis and returned to Sri Lanka. In 1989 she came to live and work in the US.
In 1994, when Mende Nazer was about 12, Arab militia stormed her village in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. They raped and massacred the villagers and sold Mende and other children into slavery, as part of the Muslim-dominated government’s war strategy against rebels in south Sudan. For about six years Mende was beaten, sexually abused, fed food scraps, and kept prisoner as a domestic slave for a family in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum. At the age of 19 she was taken to London and passed onto the family of a Sudanese diplomat, becoming one of an estimated 6000 women who have been trafficked into Britain in the past few years (mainly from countries in Eastern Europe, Africa and South Asia). Mende’s achievement of a free life after slavery was a highly publicized process. She escaped after several months, in September 2000, and claimed asylum, then suddenly found herself at the center of an international uproar: she published a controversial full-length autobiography in 2002, and the British government rejected her claim in October of the same year. She faced deportation and feared reprisal from the Sudanese government. Human rights and abolitionist groups appealed on her behalf and the Sudanese embassy in Washington DC denounced her as a fraud. In November 2002 the British government announced that it would reconsider her case, eventually granting her asylum and permanent residency. Mende began to spread awareness about slavery in Sudan. Her narrative explains that “the reason for talking out is to help make another slave free,” and in an interview she observed of her decision to tell her story: “They treated me as less than a human being. I’ll only forgive them if all my friends enslaved in Sudan are freed…I want people to know about my past.”
Rani was taken from her family in India and enslaved when she was seven years old. After a year, her enslaver sold her into illegal adoption. She grew up in the United States.
In 1992 she married Trong Hong, a survivor of trafficking in Vietnam, where he had been a child soldier. In 2002, Rani's testimony before the Washington State legislature helped to pass the state's first anti-trafficking legislation. Rani and Trong run the the Tronie Foundation, which supports survivors of human trafficking.