Recently, we spoke with Siddharth Kara, an expert on human trafficking, and Sylvia Lee, founder and director of EmancipAsia, about the prevalence of modern-day slavery in Asia. It was sobering to find out that modern day slavery touches our lives every single day, whether or not we are aware of it. One of the most common ways we may inadvertently be perpetuating the cycle of slavery is through the supply chain. Many people do not realise that many of the goods that they use and services that they procure are tainted by “bonded” or “forced” labour. That is to say, these workers are forced to complete their tasks under threat of punishment and for little or no pay.
It is more horrifying that even children are not spared from this heinousness.
Singapore may appear to be shiny and pristine, being the metropolitan hub that it is, but if you inspect it a little closer, you’ll find traces of grimy footprints that point to slavery, whether it be sex trafficking, debt bondage or even domestic servitude. (Do foreign domestic workers really have the freedom to leave if their employees “safekeep” their passports?)
If you truly believe that freedom is the right of every man, woman, and child, it’s high time you do something about it. Here are a few things you can do to effect change.
1) Get educated. When it comes to combating modern-day slavery, one of the most important steps is being informed about what it is and how widespread the problem has become.
2) Be a conscientious consumer. Find out what kind of slavery touches your life by discovering your own slavery footprint. You may be surprised at the number.
3) Spread the word by informing your family, friends, and community about the perils of modern-day slavery.
4) Speak or write to local government officials to let them know combating modern-day slavery is something that is important to you. Ask what is being done to overcome the issue in our community, and find out how you can help.
5) Volunteer with organizations like EmancipAsia or Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) to help by raising awareness through advocacy and information-dissemination. You can also choose to help by donating.
Currently, EmancipAsia is working with ATLAS of UniSim to launch a campaign which aims to raise awareness about the prevalence of human trafficking in the food industry. Since this pretty much concerns everyone in Singapore, you can do your part by participating in a survey to understand consumers’ behaviour and awareness level. The survey only takes two minutes, and anonymity is assured.
Results of this survey will be used by EmancipAsia to do a number of things including:
- Propose propose possible intervention strategies relating to these issues
- Engage businesses and policy makers to discuss solutions
- Educate students and the general public and encourage them to reflect on their consumption preferences.