Friday 18 October was National Slavery Day, and in order to promote awareness of modern-day slavery, Just Love Edinburgh, a christian charity, stood for twenty-four hours outside University of Edinburgh’s main library.
Modern-day slavery is a global issue with 40 million people forced into labour. The public perceives slavery as historical and as such, no longer relevant to the UK. However, a 2018 UK Modern Slavery Helpline survey indicated that 3,280 men and 1,476 women were potential victims of modern-day slavery.
Just Love Edinburgh is a national charity that is not associated with the Edinburgh University Student’s Association, but is partnered up with the International Justice Mission (IJM) – A non-governmental organisation founded in 1997 by the US lawyer, Gary Haugen, and which is made up of lawyers and social workers whose mission statement is: “Together we can end slavery in our lifetime.”
Just Love Edinburgh operates in three sectors: local, personal and global, with the local coordinator being a second year English Literature and History student Rosanna; the personal coordinator being a second year Philosophy and Theology student Mikaela; and the global coordinator being second year Law student, Sarah.
Third year Philosophy student, Amy, told The Student their opinion of the event: it was rather apt that the University of Edinburgh main library, regarded as the centre of learning, was the backdrop for Just Love Edinburgh’s Stand for Freedom, aiming to inform people about issues regarding modern-day slavery.
Students who were studying in the library could engage with the charity’s stall on their way out, and with matters which “relate to the world”, so that they could “learn in a different way.” Speaking about global issues made some students remember why they are “spending years” at university and how they can use their privilege to help push for change within society.
In recent politics, shame has been prevalent in speeches which second year Philosophy student, Lucy, says “gets you nowhere”, and how “there’s quite a dangerous culture” around shaming people because “the personal shame you’ve experienced somehow becomes your weapon against the world.” She added: “If we shame leaders or bring shame on people, that actually just pushes them further away from changing.” Just Love Edinburgh claims this is the reason why they took a more “holistic approach” to tackle social injustice, by inviting students to have a “meaningful conversation.” Lucy said: “It’s not our job to bring condemnation on them, it’s our job to stand in solidarity with the oppressed, and try to raise awareness.” Third year Music student, Rachel, agreed that often one can have a “bigger impact doing something peacefully rather than using anger.”
Discussions involved how modern-day slavery has become, as Amy put it, “ingrained in our daily lives” in the food and fashion industries. Sarah added that this is true “in the production line of most clothes on high street shops.” The 2015 article for The Guardian entitled: ‘Child labour in the fashion supply chain – where, why and what can businesses do?’ explained how of the 260 million children in employment worldwide, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimated that “170 million are engaged in child labour.”
Whilst the situation is improving, with child labour estimated to “[have declined] by 30% between 2000 and 2012”, there is still so much work that needs to be done, in order to improve social justice.
Image: Scarlett McCabe-Abel