The ANNpower Vital Voices Initiative is a groundbreaking partnership between ANN INC., parent company of Ann Taylor, LOFT and Lou & Grey; and Vital Voices, which seeks to empower young women from across the U.S. with the leadership skills they need to affect global progress, invest in their communities and begin their journeys as the next generation of leaders. Laurie Findley is a 2013 ANNpower Fellow (first row, left) who attended the Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C. from April 1-4.
A Call to Lead
During my freshman year of high school, I saw the documentary “The Dark Side of Chocolate.” Learning about the human trafficking and child labor that fuels the chocolate industry, I became determined to fight modern day slavery. I started out by boycotting non-fair trade chocolate and encouraging my friends to do the same. However I realized that I needed to do more to raise awareness for modern day slavery.
A year later I applied for the ANNpower Vital Voices Leadership Forum. At the Forum I was mentored by established global leaders and met other young female leaders from across the United States. The guidance and support I received from the ANNpower Mentors and other ANNpower Fellows started me on a life-changing leadership journey. With greater understanding of what leadership entails and more confidence in my own abilities, I applied for and received an ANNpower Grant.
Through my ANNpower Project I applied my passion to make a change in my community. I organized a one day seminar to raise awareness for human trafficking and encourage people in my community to take concrete action. Over 60 people attended the event which included a documentary viewing and panel discussion with human trafficking experts. Attendees could also sign a Change.org petition and write letters to major non-fair trade companies to rid their supply chains of human trafficking. At the event I launched the Tasting Freedom campaign, a human trafficking awareness initiative that aims to create a network of people dedicated to promoting awareness about human trafficking and taking action against it.
However, I still wanted expand my project to a larger scale. I came up with an idea to coordinate anti-human trafficking marches across the country to raise awareness for human trafficking and encourage state legislators to pass anti- human trafficking legislation. I applied for a 2014 ANNpower Grant to put this idea into action.
To expand beyond Tallahassee, I contacted my ANNpower Mentors, other ANNpower Fellows and members of the Roots and Shoots National Youth Leadership Council. In solidarity with my project, ANNpower Mentor Kah Walla will be screening a documentary highlighting child trafficking in Cameroon and Skyping in as a speaker to events in Boston, Los Angeles, Tallahassee, Syosset, Yorktown and Santa Fe. Two ANNpower Fellows have already led marches in Arkansas and Georgia and along with other youth activists, eight more will lead marches and events in cities across the world from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. to Addis Ababa from April to June.
With the support of this incredible network, my ANNpower Project includes marches and events in 11 states and 13 cities across the United States and 3 countries around the world.
I want to give a voice to the victims of human trafficking who are not able to speak for themselves. My long term vision for my project is to empower people to take action and pay it forward beyond these events. To do this I will continue partnering with other organizations to petition companies, raise awareness, support legislation and hold awareness events to push human trafficking to the forefront of the national and international agenda.
Learn more about Laurie’s ANNpower Project Tasting Freedom on Facebook or Twitter.
Join the Movement and sign up for a march or event in your area.