By Astrid Zweynert
HONG KONG (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Australian actress Rachel Griffiths, who rose to fame in the hit 1994 movie "Muriel's Wedding", loves Hollywood's happy endings and this drove her to get involved with helping victims of human trafficking in Asia.
Griffiths, 46, said her work as a patron of the charity Hagar has inspired her to believe that individuals can play a key role in helping to abolish modern-day slavery, an industry estimated to be worth $150 billion a year globally.
The Oscar-nominated actress said no one should dismiss this as a problem that was too hard to solve because everyone can help drive change, be it through boycotting products tainted by slave labor or donating money to help survivors.
"Every Hollywood actor likes a happy ending so I decided to help raise awareness about these issues," Griffiths told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at a conference on slavery.
"I realized through my work at Hagar that I, as an individual, can make a difference by raising money and telling people about the effectiveness of what we're (doing) with the survivors of human trafficking."
Hagar, which Griffiths joined as patron of Hagar Australia in 2012, was launched in 1994 in Cambodia and now also works in Afghanistan and Vietnam to help survivors of trafficking recover from trauma and reintegrate into society.
The charity deals mostly with women and children but has recently started to work with Cambodian fishermen forced to toil as slaves on boats off the coast of Indonesia.
Griffiths, who was nomin7ated for an Academy Award as best supporting actress for her role in the 1998 film "Hilary and Jackie", said her first understanding of slavery was that it is difficult to penetrate or to make a difference.
But her involvement with Hagar had shown her that everyone can help tackle this crime, with figures estimating that about 36 million people are living in slavery around the world.
"I got really inspired by hearing these stories of recovery because as an actor you put yourself into that position of the survivor," Griffiths said in an interview on the sidelines of Trust Forum Asia, a conference co-hosted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation to tackle modern-day slavery.
"What I learned through witnessing these journeys of recovery is that, given the appropriate help and support, survivors of such abuses can recover."
(Reporting By Astrid Zweynert, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)