Free the Slaves is thrilled to announce that a courageous advocate for the rights of women and children has joined the organization as executive director. Bukeni Tete Waruzi has helped put a Congolese warlord behind bars, has helped women trafficked into domestic servitude in the Middle East, and has served as a tireless human rights champion with American, European and African organizations for more than 20 years.
“I have chosen to take action and dedicate my life to fighting for justice for victims and survivors everywhere in the world,” Waruzi says. “It is essential for peace and accountability, and to make the world a better place for everyone.”
Waruzi has documented human rights abuses, implemented advocacy campaigns, conducted training workshops and made public presentations in 40 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, his home country, he formed the grassroots nonprofit group AJEDI-KA/Child Soldiers Project to confront the widespread enslavement of children by armed militias. He videotaped evidence that led to the imprisonment of a notorious warlord. In Kenya, Waruzi served as a program manager for the Porticus Foundation, overseeing projects on human rights, civic engagement, education and climate change. He served as executive director of Watchlist in New York, an organization that protects children in conflict zones. And he has served as a senior program manager in New York for WITNESS, a group that empowers victims worldwide to collect evidence that brings perpetrators to justice. Waruzi has made presentations to the United Nations Security Council, the International Criminal Court, and the Children’s Caucus of the U.S. Congress.
“I am very excited to announce the selection of Bukeni Waruzi as the new executive director of Free the Slaves,” says Daniel Elkes, chair of the Free the Slaves board of directors. “With his experience, talent and leadership capabilities, I believe we will be able to propel the organization — and indeed the anti-slavery movement as a whole — to a new level. I look forward to what we will be able to accomplish together.”
“We are so thrilled to welcome Bukeni Waruzi,” say Carolyn Long and Timothy Patrick McCarthy, board members and co-chairs of the executive director search. “From an extraordinarily diverse and talented pool of applicants from across the globe, Bukeni emerged as the clear choice to lead our historic organization into its third decade. In addition to his truly exceptional record of achievement on the front lines of human rights work over the past generation, Bukeni is a visionary leader, strategic movement builder, and passionate advocate who has risked his life to liberate enslaved people and bring their oppressors to justice. Bukeni represents the very best of a rising generation of 21st century abolitionists working to end the ongoing scourge of modern slavery. We are honored to join him in this work.”
“I am so happy to welcome Bukeni Waruzi as the new executive director,” says Evelyn Chumbow, a Free the Slaves board member who is herself a trafficking survivor. “I sat down with him during the selection process, and I believe he will bring new and amazing ideas to help sharpen the work that Free the Slaves continues to do.”
Waruzi will lead Free the Slaves, one of the world’s most widely-known and respected anti-trafficking organizations, as it approaches an important milestone. In 2020, Free the Slaves turns 20 years old, at the same time that the U.N. Palermo Protocol and U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act also turn 20.
“I am honored to lead Free the Slaves at this critical moment in the history of the modern abolition movement,” Waruzi says. “There are many challenges facing the movement, and millions of people are still enslaved. But we have an opportunity for greater impact by pushing for systemic changes, effective support for victims and survivors, and improvement of social practices that allow slavery to exist.”
The Free the Slaves board of directors would like to express its thanks to Gina Reiss, who has served with distinction as managing strategic consultant during the organization’s leadership transition.
“Gina has demonstrated exceptional leadership and professionalism,” says Elkes. “We are thankful for all she has done, and are grateful that she has agreed to continue to work with us to both ensure a smooth transition as well as to set up Free the Slaves for continued future success.”