Blog piece
16 March 2018

Many ULIP students make the most of their time studying in Paris to get involved in internships, work experience and voluntary work, taking up the opportunities that come with living in one of the world’s great political and cultural capitals. Fitting part time work around your studies at ULIP can really help you to explore your career options, improve language and employability skills, and boost your CV with valuable work and experience, not to mention providing an extra source of financial support.

Second year student, Kameni Chaddha (BA French Studies with History), has spent the last six months interning with the non-profit organisation, slavefreetrade, who work to raise awareness of the prevelance of slavery in many product supply chains. Working with slavefreetrade has allowed Kameni to develop her interests in international work, complementing lots of what she’s studied at ULIP in her Minor in History.

We asked to feature one of the blog posts that she’s written for the organisation to give us a sense of what she’s been campaigning about during her time there and she very kindly said yes!

Human Rights Written on Stones, but Slavery on our Clothes

Article 4. of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms”

The Abolition of Slavery in History

Free will and the abolition of slavery have been ingrained into our history; shown through different forms of declarations over time. For example, the Magna Carta of 1215 in Great Britain, the US constitution in 1787 and France’s La droit de l’homme et du Citoyen of 1789. These documents informed what became the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Between 1792 (Denmark-Norway) and 1981 (Mauritania) slavery was outlawed in every country around the world. However, it still exists today; albeit more covertly. This is modern slavery. It impacts hundreds of millions of people around the world. This is a reality that we, as young people, have the power to change.

The reality

The overwhelming majority of things that we buy today have been touched by a slave at some point in their production – 168 million of these slaves are children. These children are not at school and have probably not even considered the concept of a primary school education, whilst this is a privilege that many of us take for granted.

When I share this reality with peers and friends, usually I am met with the following questions:

“But, wouldn’t slave-free clothes be much more expensive?” and “If slavery still exists on such a large scale, surely my actions alone will not make a difference?”

Having volunteered with slavefreetrade for six months now, I have the answers to these questions. In terms of expense, most companies only need to pay a few more cents per worker to provide a living wage to a worker in their supply chain. As well as this, it is possible for companies to absorb most, if not all of this cost, while remaining competitive and profitable. In response to the second question, there is so much that we can do, so let us not just ‘accept’ slavery as an unfortunate occurrence – slavefreetrade has a solution.

The solution

At slavefreetrade we have created the world’s first verified slave-free label for worksites, products and services. To be awarded with this label, each worker at every worksite in a supply chain must confirm that his or her labour conditions are fair. If not, then all risks or incidents of slavery or exploitation must be remedied. The results of the assessment process will be made publicly available on a blockchain and through an app we can use on our smartphones. We have a collective responsibility to unlock a slave-free world and it is us who hold the keys.

So what can we do?

Be aware of what we buy: research brands – see what they publish about the labour conditions in their supply chains, and whether they take actions to find out if their suppliers are exploiting workers, and what they are doing to eliminate illegal labour practices.

Buy less: Do you really need everything that you buy? The chances are that you don’t. Reuse, repair and recycle like people used to do before the quick and cheap (AKA slave-made) products became available to quench our unquenchable thirst. Choose your purchases wisely. I am someone that has consumed a lot more than necessary, so let’s make a conscious and concerted effort to distinguish between what we really need and what we want!

Spread awareness: Share messages like this with your peers and educate those around you. Let’s make a fuss about modern slavery and realise our power to eliminate it.

Get involved: Work, volunteer for, or otherwise support anti-slavery organisations. Try to only accept jobs with those companies that demonstrate that they are not harming people, or take steps to address the harm that they are doing. Wouldn’t it be great to see verified slave-free products in stores? Be advocates, demand companies to become ethical and verified slave-free, allowing us to consume their products worry-free.

It’s up to us!

Calling all millennials – we are the generation that have the power to transform a past of promise to a present of action, and a future of truth and freedom. It is us who can realise the ideals enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and ensure that people are free to live with dignity and respect by demanding a new future. The past should not constrain us from our goal, but it should motivate us to do more and educate ourselves so that we can move on.

Shall we learn and make a change once and for all?

Let’s make slavery history.