By Phoebe Ewen
At Mekong Club, we often hold awareness raising talks and hard-hitting sessions on the horrendous crime that is modern day slavery. Each time, we are asked the same question by audience members, who are moved by the stories of the 40 million men, women, and children living in slavery today.
“This is such a shocking issue, but what can I really do to help?”
Modern slavery is an overwhelmingly far-reaching crime that permeates through to our everyday lives in so many different ways. As we learn more about how modern slavery is found the supply chains of the food that we eat, the clothes that we wear, and the electronics that we use every day, it can feel easier to simply turn a blind eye and dismiss this as too big a problem to tackle as an individual. However in reality, our individual choices as citizens and consumers can have a profound ripple effect on the ability of modern slavery to continue to thrive undetected. We do have the power to create change, and the more we collectively step up as individuals, the louder our voices become and the greater our impact.
1) Choose brands that are proactively working to combat modern slavery.
While it may be tempting to shift blame onto particular brands and industries for the existence of this issue based on one or two news articles or hearsay, many companies are engaged in positive action in this space that goes unnoticed. Apps like Good On You allow you to research how your favourite brands are working on modern slavery issues and make judgements on where to shop based on their actions. Most organisations (particularly those that operate in the UK and/or Australia) are legally required to publish a publicly available modern slavery statement on their website that you can access. Take a look at your favourite brands’ statements, and read about the work that they are doing to ensure their operations are free from this crime. Reward those brands that are taking action by choosing them as a consumer. If you cannot find sufficient detail on the work that your chosen brand is doing in this space, drop them an email and ask the question. This demonstrates to them that their consumers care about this issue and allows you to seek assurance that you are buying from a company that is actively working against modern slavery. Remember, most industries are impacted by modern slavery and as more companies work to uncover this issue, your favourite brands may find modern slavery in their operations. Rather than boycotting immediately, take note of how they work to resolve this and improve over time and reward those companies that learn from their past mistakes.
2) Spread the word.
If you are reading this article, then you most likely have been exposed to the topic of modern slavery and maybe want to learn more. Many of your friends and family will be simply unaware of the size and scale of this issue, which affects over 40 million people worldwide. Talk to them, share videos and resources, or even arrange a training session at your place of work to spread the word. The more people understand and care about modern slavery, the more focus we will see on this topic from governments, NGOs, and companies who respond to the demands of the communities that they serve.
The anti-slavery community consists of passionate and dedicated individuals and organisations that would benefit so much from a few hours of your time each month. Research anti-slavery NGOs in your local area and reach out to see if you can contribute your skills to their cause. NGOs often operate on very lean budgets, and could benefit from fundraisers, writers, designers, accountants, lawyers, even social media whizzes, you may be surprised how you can contribute to fighting modern slavery.
4) Use your voice as a citizen.
Legislation can be the driver of incredible change. The UK and Australian modern slavery acts have led to increased focus on this topic and greater accountability on organisations to proactively identify and report how they are combatting modern slavery. Use your voice as a citizen to encourage legislative changes, write to your representatives to find out how your local government plans to address modern slavery, and keep up-to-date on the latest global legislative changes.
Remember, every small action that you take contributes to a global movement.
Modern slavery will only end if we join together as a global community and take positive steps towards change. The suggestions above outline some ways in which you can directly contribute to this mission in your everyday life. These may seem like small actions, but collectively they can result in saving millions of lives and change the world for good.