A person becomes a slave every four seconds.
Another person joins the 45.8 million people trapped in modern day slavery right now. 25,200 new people become enslaved every day. The number of those being freed each day is much lower. What do we do to fight this losing battle? I had the pleasure of attending an event at The Freedom Hub in Sydney, to hear international activist Matt Friedman share his experiences of working in the human trafficking field, and his ideas for moving forward in the fight to abolish slavery.
What I liked about the evening, was how Matt focused on what we as a private sector can do. It’s great and essential to have large NGO’s and the United Nations running programs and writing policies, but for the average person, this is out of our reach. Not all of us are called to be international speakers or to go and live overseas to dedicate our lives to the cause. But I believe, and what Matt was articulating, for human trafficking to become extinct we all need to take action. Stop the Traffik talks a lot about supply chains and how we should be aware of what chocolate, coffee, clothing and electronics we buy, and there is a very good reason for this! Most people think of human trafficking or slavery as forced prostitution; however, this is a very small piece of the puzzle. Matt estimated a massive 60% of all human trafficking cases are through forced labour within supply chains of products we use everyday.
Undeniably we are all consumers of products that have been made by those held in slavery. At some point in production, your shoes, jumper, phone or coffee has been touched by a human being who is being exploited. And the tough thing in this movement is that the majority of the population aren't even aware of this, or they don't know what to do about it. Enter the most powerful players in the fight, the private sector. Us. Businesses. We are the ones spending our money and so, therefore, we can educate ourselves and choose brands that have made commitments to ethical sourcing and production of materials. We as a consumer have the right to ask businesses about their ethical sourcing policy (if they have one), or what products they stock that is ethical. Essentially businesses are out to please us. The whole business model is based on attracting consumers by offering what we desire, so we will choose to purchase their products. If consumers become vocal about wanting products that are ethically sourced or wanting to shop with businesses that have a commitment to ethical sourcing, then guess what? The business sector will have to listen in order to keep attracting customers and therefore keep making money!
Another important element that Matt stressed, was the importance of working WITH businesses not against them. Yelling at them, bad mouthing or shaming businesses isn't going be productive for a step forward. Instead, if we respectfully enquire and appeal through business terminology they understand, as well as offering to journey alongside them to educate, create strategies and how to put policies in place, there is potential for partnership and collaboration to inspire change.
Matts Top 5 ideas for moving forward in this movement for ending modern slavery were to:
1. Educate, inspire and motivate the world
2. Prompt a sense of urgency (One slave every four seconds!!!)
3. Engage the private sector
4. Activate a new abolitionist movement
5. We need to find some hero’s (hint: this is you!)
So what does this mean? Advocate! Tell your friends, get them to tell their friends. People find it difficult to hear about the dark things that are happening in the world and may find it painful. But something Matt said really stuck with me. He said that if you don’t accept the pain, you aren’t able to become part of the solution. And that eventually, you have to surrender to all you’ve heard or seen and there’s no option to do anything else but take a stand.
How can you take a stand? Everyone has something to contribute. Anything from giving up your time, talking with friends and family about the issue, using your skills, to simply buying your coffee from a Fairtrade cafe. So I challenge you, what is your passion? What gives you excitement? If you are interested in how you can volunteer and get involved, please contact below to find out what help is needed or how you can use your gift to change the world.
To learn more about Matt Friedman’s work at the Mekong Club, you can follow this website: http://themekongclub.org/
To learn about The Freedom Hub cafe where 100% of profits go towards survivors of human trafficking in Australia and to find out how to volunteer with their projects, their website is: http://www.thefreedomhub.org/
To find out ways that you can volunteer with Stop the Traffik Australia you can follow this link: http://stopthetraffik.com.au/joinus/