Eminent activists, journalists and international social workers at a conference, titled Youth Against Slavery, shared insights into the scourge of human trafficking and urged the audience to get involved through personal and financial initiatives, at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai last Saturday.
The conference was organized by Harmony Foundation, on the eve of the Mother Teresa Memorial Awards which were held last Sunday. According to Abraham Mathai, founder of the Harmony Foundation and moving spirit behind the awards, the youth of today live in a world of ease and are not aware of what is happening outside their comfort zones. While explaining the purpose of inviting youth for this conference, he said, “Mere social media activism will not help. Youth will have to get to the grassroots to work for change.”
Present on the occasion as speakers was a plethora of famous names in the field of social justice for victims of human trafficking and bonded labour. They included Baroness Cox of Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART, that provides aid and advocacy for those suffering with oppression and persecution, Matt Friedman, CEO of the Mekong Club, which works against exploitative labour practices, Priti Patkar of Prerana, Hussain al Qaidi, who has worked on behalf of Yazidi women, to rescue over 5,000 Yazidi women from the clutches of ISIS, and Rob Williams, founder of War Child, the UK-based NGO which works with children in the aftermath of war and conflict.
Tushar Gandhi, peace activist and great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, who works for rehabilitating victims of child trafficking, was also a part of the one-day conference. In his address, he said, “Even in the department of technology, our brains are enslaved. How can a slave work for the other slave? First, we need to free ourselves from the bondage of our slavery. Only then would we be able to connect to fellow victim beings.”
Boys and men are also victims of human trafficking, as pointed out by Alezandra Russell, the founder of Urban Light, Thailand, who posed a question to the audience on how society can collectively address these issues. According to her, these challenges could be easily tackled by setting out a call of action to all NGOs fighting human trafficking to make their focus gender-neutral and creating innovative ways to pool resources.
Gudia is an organization in Varanasi that makes efforts towards rescuing and rehabilitating sex workers. The founder, Ajeet Singh, spoke about his disappointment when he failed to make connections with this marginalised and vulnerable section of society. According to him, they are unable to escape from the vicious cycle of prostitution without significant help from civil society which is too arrogant and proud to bother.
The international speakers focused mainly on how these issues are rampant at a global level and briefed the audience about their endeavours with their organizations and the need for youth to extend their participation towards the cause. “Everyone should contribute to solving the problem which approximately just 15,000 people from around the world are trying to solve,” said, Matt Friedman, the CEO of Mekong Club. Everyone also urged that people be more generous in supporting these organisations. Eve and, encouraged the audience to donate for this cause and help raise the money for it.
Written by Journalism students Shruti Vanjare, Laveena D’Souza, and Kunal Hariani
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