Pause for Thought: It Must Stop
2 December is the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery
by Brian Radcliffe
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To explore our understanding of modern slavery.
Preparation and materials
- Further information about the topic of modern slavery is available at: https://www.un.org/en/observances/slavery-abolition-day
- Ask the students, ‘How could someone make you do something that you didn’t want to do?’
Encourage the students to consider different relationships such as teacher/student, parent/child, friend/friend, government/people and so on.
- Point out that there are various persuasive means that people use to make someone do something that they don’t want to do. These might include enticements, threats, violence, deception, peer pressure, poverty and coercion.
- Worldwide, one in ten children works. Most child labour that occurs today is for economic exploitation. That’s over 150 million children who are living as slaves, for slavery is the only word to describe this situation. Many of these children have never known any other life.
- 2 December is the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. It’s a day when we are exhorted to discover the reality of modern slavery.
So, what do slaves do in the contemporary world, even here in the UK?
- One form of slavery is forced labour. For example, when people are trafficked across borders, it’s often with the promise of work. However, they soon discover that the work is poorly paid or that their pay is immediately taken by the traffickers to pay for the journey.
Similarly, in regions of acute poverty, whole families, including very young children, are forced to work simply to live from day to day. Recently, there has been a lot of publicity about this form of slavery in the clothing trade, including in the UK.
- A second form of slavery, particularly among women and girls, is to do with sex. Some are forced into marriage, often to men who are much older than them. Sometimes, they are sold into these relationships by their own parents. They have no say in their choice of partner. Others are forced to work as prostitutes. There have been many examples of these situations in the UK.
- Around the world, particularly in Africa, there is a third form of slavery: child soldiers. Through the threat of violence, use of drugs and the enticement of excitement, young girls and boys are used to fight in wars. The motive behind using child soldiers is that the enemy can be more easily deceived by an apparently innocent youngster, who may in fact be a suicide bomber or an armed attacker. The nearest equivalent in the UK is probably county lines drug smuggling, where traffickers recruit vulnerable children as drug dealers to transport drugs throughout the country.
- Every one of these examples falls under the umbrella of modern slavery. None of these children would choose to be in the situation in which they find themselves.
Time for reflection
So, what can we do? It’s one thing to know about modern slavery and disapprove, but our disapproval should lead to some outcome if it’s to have any value.
We can write to our local MP and ask them to keep pressurizing the Foreign Office to protest about slavery worldwide. Alternatively, or in addition, we could adopt a narrower approach and ask our MP to insist that the local police target forced marriage and child exploitation nearer home.
However, it’s possible to take more direct action. Everyone loves a bargain, particularly in terms of fashion, but it’s worth asking why clothes, sportswear and footwear are so cheap in some outlets. It’s likely that the prices reflect where these items come from.
Child slavery exists even in UK cities, where there is an industry to create cheap copies of high-fashion items. Think carefully before snapping up a bargain. Look at the labels. Maybe we could consider spending a little more at another outlet if we think that child slavery may have contributed to the price.
Let’s go back to that question at the start of the assembly: ‘How could someone make you do something that you didn’t want to do?’
Now let’s turn the question on its head: ‘How do you persuade others to do things that they may not want to do?’
Do we use persuasion, peer pressure, threats or even violence to get people under our power? Isn’t that the start of enslaving them? It’s worth thinking about.
Encourage the students to find out more about the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery by visiting the dedicated website at: https://www.un.org/en/observances/slavery-abolition-day
- Conduct a simple survey of the range of prices that different fashion outlets charge for a similar item. Compare the labels on the garments, paying particular attention to where the item was produced. Can you draw any conclusions?