Tufts Zeroes-In On The Challenges to Modern Abolitionism

From Tufts Observer, the Tufts student magazine:

The first challenge in the destruction of modern-day slavery is that some people simply do not know it exists. Pangea’s Modern Day Slavery committee’s main objective is to raise awareness on the Tufts campus. Elizabeth Gardner, a Policy Associate for Free the Slaves, commented in a interview that awareness is imperative “when it comes to the issue of modern-day slavery, because many people consign this problem to the past and to some place far away. As we work to mobilize support to abolish slavery, we must continue to spread the word that this problem still exists. Many modern-day slaves live in South Asia, but the truth is that at times they can be found in our own backyard.” During the group’s tabling efforts in the dining halls, many people were surprised to learn that slavery is ongoing today. The committee is also working in conjunction with Human Trafficking Students (HTS). HTS is a cross-campus group that is comprised of college students from the Boston area who are interested in the devastating topic of modern slavery and its abolition. Their mission is to spark academic conversation in support of the abolitionist movement as a means for gradual change. Eric Goodwin, a Harvard graduate student, Danielle Townsend, a Tufts freshman, and Michael Rubine, a Northeastern University student, are the central team leaders for this initiative.

There is a market for slavery that encourages its continuation. The demand for cheap clothing has been met with a supply made by slaves. If people did not want to buy cheap products, then the practice of slavery would finally die away . The anti-slavery initiative emphasizes the need for action to change the mindset of people in charge of corporations that participate (directly and indirectly) in the use of slave labor. To accomplish this large task, Free the Slaves is using world-class research and compelling stories from the frontlines of slavery to convince the powerful and the powerless that slavery can be eradicated. The mentality of prioritizing profit over ethics and morals needs to be eliminated in the consumer market in order for the abolition of slavery to be possible.

A third challenge to the modern slavery problem is getting people to care. The global market has rapidly evolved into a world of cheap, name-brand products. Consumers indirectly perpetuate slavery by purchasing products that are manufactured by slave labor On behindthelabor.org, the profiles of several well-known brands, such as those of Gap, Old Navy and Victoria’s Secret, describe their use of slave labor. If there were no demand for such products then there would not be any advantage for companies that use slave labor. The goal for organizations like Pangea is to get people not only interested but also to hold their attention and commit them to ongoing support of the cause. If students stay involved, perhaps they may begin to see the results of their efforts. “There are a number of opportunities for students to get involved,” Gardner says, “College students are in a great place to learn and act. One of the most important actions that a college student could take would be first to get educated about the issue. Once you learn about what is happening, share this knowledge.”

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