This Sunday marks the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. It’s been 180 years since Britain put a stop to its Transatlantic Slave Trade, one of the largest scale human rights abuses in history. This marked an end to the legal trade in humans that had spanned 400 years and affected at least 15million people.
Since then, every legal system in the world bans the practice of slavery, but it persists, often simply in a different name. Some 40million people are affected by slavery each day; whether in a coltan mine in Congo, a garment factory in India or a nail bar in London, slavery is often hidden in plain sight.
There may no longer be shackles or slave ships travelling with human ‘commodities’ but still the products of slavery are around us every day – it’s in the things we wear and the things we eat.
What can you do?
Ending slavery and freeing 40million people is a huge task and will require a movement of inspired activists to achieve it. But there are a very simple ways you can take action and be part of that movement.
1. Learn. Learn about modern slavery. Know where it can exist and how it manifests. It can take as little as 10 minutes. Visit antislavery.org/modern-slavery to learn more.
2. Spot the signs. You probably see people who are in slavery on a regular basis. They don’t have shackles, they might appear normal, but look closer and you might spot more worrying traits. Do they appear to be in the control of someone else and reluctant to interact with others? Do they have few personal belongings, wear the same clothes every day or wear unsuitable clothes for work? Are they able to move around freely? Are they reluctant to talk to strangers or the authorities? Do they appear frightened, withdrawn, or show signs of physical or psychological abuse?
If you suspect that someone is in slavery, DO NOT confront them or cause a scene as this will likely lead to increased harm for them. In the UK call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700, or search online for the relevant helpline in your country and put the number in your phone - it takes two minutes.
3. Use your consumer power. If you don’t want your hard-earned cash encouraging slavery around the world, engage the businesses you buy from. Check whether they have a modern slavery statement and ask them what they are doing to ensure their goods and services are not tainted by slavery. 15 minutes spent reading a statement, often found on their website, and sending a short email can have a real impact. We have countless examples of businesses acting under pressure from their customers.
4. Sign the petition. Victims of slavery need time and support to rebuild their lives. But the UK only provides short term and often poor quality support, leaving people with nothing and vulnerable to being targeted by traffickers again. So spare 2 minutes and ask your MP to support the Free for Good campaign at freeforgood.org.uk.
5. Donate. Specialist anti-slavery organisations provide immediate care for victims, run programmes to rebuild their lives, and lobby governments and businesses to take slavery seriously and protect vulnerable people. This is often long and complex work and needs sustained resources. If you want to end slavery, consider making a donation large or small to Anti-Slavery International, the leading organisation working to bring an end to slavery once and for all. It takes 3 minutes, and can cost you as little as a price of coffee – it’s up to you!
6. Share. Having taken any of the above actions, don’t keep it to yourself. Share information about slavery with the people you know. Encourage them to learn more and to take action themselves. This will cost you as little as a few seconds to share tweets and Facebook posts. Click away now!