In Union Court on Tuesday 4th August, you may have seen a group raising awareness of modern day slavery through the #Stand4Freedom initiative.

The event was organised on behalf of the International Justice Mission (IJM), and was focussed on encouraging people to “pass on the conversation” about slavery in the modern age.

A small group of people were available from 9am until 5pm for discussions about the continuing issue of slavery, and to suggest ways in which interested students might get involved in combatting it. Participants were encouraged to photograph themselves alongside one of the placards, and to post the result to social media with the hashtag #Stand4Freedom.

Organiser Rachel Djoeandy said that the aim of the event was to “raise awareness of modern day slavery”, but she emphasised that the idea was “not just [to] make people sad”.

The take-home message, she said, was that although slavery is still a current issue, there are people doing something to combat it, and there are ways in which we can all participate.

Djoeandy said she wanted to address the “disconnect between the issue and the consciousness” of it by encouraging students to learn more, and “inspire them to be a part of the fight to end modern-day slavery”. This was the first event organised for IJM at the ANU, but the organisers are hoping to establish a society within the university by the end of the year for interested students. IJM is a US-based mission with a focus on “protecting the poor from violent oppression”.

When asked about modern day slavery, Djoeandy said: “This is a very real issue with an estimated 36 million slaves in the world today, and a quarter of forced labour victims being children.”

Roughly 14 million slaves are found in India, more than any other country in the world. Although most slaves are in situations of forced labour, approximately 22% of all victims of slavery are in the field of sex slavery.

In the modern era, slavery is often referred to as “bonded labour” or “debt bondage,” and is often initiated when a family or individual can not repay a debt, and are as such forced into slavery by way of repayment. There is also a prevalent issue of forced migrant labour around the world, which occurs when underprivileged people are enticed into migration by the promise of employment, only to be forced into labour under threat of harm to either themselves or their families.

Participants in #Stand4Freedom were encouraged to “think about [their] purchases”, as a way to make a difference to modern-day slavery. Djoeandy flagged fashion in particular as an area in which it’s possible to find affordable Australian alternatives which have reduced the risk of modern-day slavery and recommended online “Ethical Fashion Guides” to find out more. Other fields that have been found to have a high rate of slavery involved in production include cars, chocolate, computers and mobile phones.