A three-minute animation highlighting modern slavery has been awarded Best Animation at the prestigious Royal Television Society Yorkshire Programme Awards.

The animation, produced by Marsden-based Fettle Animation, tells the story of a young South Asian woman lured to the UK with the promise of marriage and a better life.

After marriage, once the immigration people have gone, she finds she is treated as a servant, sleeping on the floor, expected to cook and clean and look after relatives with her passport and visa withheld and not allowed to go out.

She is discovered by a member of the extended family who report it to the authorities. The young woman is taken to safety and starts living life on her own terms again with support.

The story is based on the real-life experiences of people who have escaped domestic servitude, a form of modern slavery.

Their stories were gathered by the West Yorkshire Police’s Anti-Slavery Partnership comprising of international anti-slavery charity Hope for Justice; Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire; West Yorkshire Police; and the Police Modern Slavery and Organised Immigration Crime Programme.

Actor, writer and Urdu dialect coach Madiha Ansari recorded the voiceover and translated the animation into Urdu, Bengali and Punjabi working alongside Sumaya Chowdhury and Saleha Mahmood, who worked on the Bengali and Punjabi versions.

Fettle Animation’s Zane Whittingham, who designed and animated the film, said: “We did extensive background reading and visual research on the people and areas of West Yorkshire featured in the story.

“We were told that a large proportion of the people being exploited are from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh so we took care to create a central character who would be relatable for people from all of those communities.

“The police showed it to people from relevant communities in West Yorkshire and we re-worked lots of little details using their feedback and feedback from our fabulous team of translators.”  

Vicky Wilson, of West Yorkshire Police’s Anti-Slavery Partnership, said: “I felt quite moved when I saw the final animation. It literally gave a voice to all those victims whose stories I had been listening to over the previous months and years.”

Vicky explained how the ground-breaking animation was used by staff tackling modern slavery all over England – and had already been successful close to home.

“Having delivered training at Bradford Royal Infirmary to doctors, consultants, midwives, nurses etc as part of Bradford’s Safeguarding Week, I showed the video and handed out copies of the leaflets and posters,” she said.

“A few days later I received a call to say they had treated a patient in A&E who they believed was a victim of this type of exploitation.

“She didn’t have a smartphone but they scanned the QR code on her behalf, selected the Urdu version of the animation and, having watched the video, she was able to confirm she was a victim of domestic servitude.”

Paul McAnulty, UK & Europe programme director at Hope for Justice, said: “Domestic servitude is the most clandestine form of modern slavery and potentially the most under-reported.

“Domestic servitude has so many overlaps with issues such as domestic violence and honour abuse, it’s important to respect how people’s circumstances can lead them into this situation.”

West Yorkshire’s Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Alison Lowe, who is also the chair of the National Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery Network, said: “This recognition is fantastic news and highlights just how important awareness raising in this area is.

“Depicting the actual experience of a survivor, this anonymous animation confronts the issue head on and we hope has prompted greater reporting.

“We know that domestic servitude is one of the least identified exploitation types of modern slavery in the UK, accounting for almost 8% of reports behind labour, sexual and criminal exploitation.

“This does not mean that it is necessarily less common, but because it literally occurs behind closed doors, it isn’t identified or recorded.

“The victim could be used by their own family members or partner, who often use their position of power as control, making threats or even withholding a passport.”

Kath Shackleton, of Fettle Animation

Kath Shackleton, producer at Fettle Animation, said: “Working on the Modern Slavery Awareness animation, we knew we were onto something special.

“We’re thrilled to win an award and delighted and humbled to hear that our work is having an impact on the ground in helping people affected by these issues. Animation is such a powerful medium.”

The animations can be viewed HERE