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What can be done about human slavery?

Organisations within Monash SA as well as others have started a campaign to create awareness about slavery.

Organisations within Monash SA as well as others have started a campaign to create awareness about slavery.

“Did you know that there are more slaves in the world today than at any other time in history?” reads a quote from the United Nations after research showed the extent of slavery.

On October 5, The Sweatshop Challenge will take place at Monash South Africa in Roodepoort to raise awareness about human slavery.

When people talk about human slavery, those listening often appear completely confused. They say: “We don’t have slavery anymore. Slavery was abolished 150 years ago. In the USA, a war over this issue was fought. There are no slaves.” But reality articulates itself in a different way. Globally, it is estimated that there are nearly 36 million men, women and children who have been trafficked and forced into slavery. These victims can be found in factories, construction sites, within fisheries and sex venues/brothels. If one assumes a 20 percent turnover in the number of slaves annually, this means that seven million new slaves enter these sites each year; 19 200 per day, 800 an hour or one every five seconds.

Human slavery affects every country in the world. What can we do about it? Unfortunately, unless the whole world stands against it, combating it in its entirety continues to be a great challenge to overcome.

Participants of the first Sweatshop Challenge had very mixed emotions. Many of them were not aware of the current situation involving modern-day slavery and how close to home it really is. Many people life feel that trafficking of any kind could not happen to them. However, human trafficking is unbiased. It does not discriminate. Anyone can fall victim to this atrocity. This is the aim of the awareness campaign.

The purpose of the Sweatshop Challenge is to give people an understanding of what it is like to experience the conditions that workers in a sweatshop environment are often susceptible to. Those who participate will be asked to do this activity and then “Imagine if this was your life seven days a week, 365 days a year. It isn’t your life it shouldn’t be anyone else’s.” Activities are tedious and boring; they will make people’s hands numb and cramp up, creating a sense of pointlessness, without food, beverages or breaks. Participants will be asked to keep quiet for extended periods of time, and will have to ask permission to go to the bathroom. Only water will be provided.

The simulation activities include Nuts and Bolts (screwing and unscrewing nuts and bolts) and sorting coloured rice (picking out and dividing colours into separate bowls and then repeating the process). The simulation will be run for a five-hour period. Participants can stop at any time; however, the aim is to complete the challenge.

One of the best ways to quickly understand the complexity and sheer horror of modern-day slavery is to listen to real-life stories. During the challenge participants will share in victim accounts and videos in partnership with the 852 Freedom Campaign. Presentations will also be given by counter-trafficking organisations.

The Sweatshop Challenge is being run by Crimon, a student organisation at Monash South Africa (MSA) together with Community Engagement Department at MSA. Their external partners include the 852 Freedom Campaign, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and World Wide Documentaries.

Corporates, businesses, NGOs, schools and the public are encouraged to participate in the challenge. The ultimate goal is to create awareness strong enough to leave participants with a sense of urgency to end human slavery. Participants can ask their companies, colleagues, and families to sponsor them per hour completed in the challenge, raising funds for local organisations combating human slavery. Sponsorship is not mandatory or a requirement to participate in the challenge.

Debriefing sessions will be held during and after the event. Being exposed to traumatic stories and the reality of human trafficking will affect participants in different ways, therefore the organisers will provide a platform for participants to express themselves after having participated in such an event. Indemnity forms for participants in the challenge will be signed for and for any media purposes related to the campaign.

To participate in the campaign, follow the link to fill out the registration form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1YMATKk2L7uErAjowNGZ7j7BxEUAQZETFu6ZHKnnifFE/viewform?usp=send_form

*Press release supplied by Monica Steyn, MS Publicity.

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