Activism with Young People


Jess Brady wants young people to get the message about human trafficking so they become life long advocates of change.

“I was late to the party on this one. Even though I had always been involved in social justice, the issues around human trafficking and modern day slavery weren’t on my radar,” said Jess, a Project Officer with Catholic Education Melbourne.

All that changed in 2019 when Paul Sharkey, CEM’s Director of Catholic Leadership and Governance, asked Jess to work with ACRATH on promoting slavery-free chocolate in schools during Easter.

Jess supports the United Nations 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, which begins on 25th November – International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and ends on 10th December – Human Rights Day. Human trafficking, a $150 billion global industry, is one of the greatest examples of violence against women and girls. Millions of women and girls are forced to marry, or to work in slave like conditions for little, or no, pay and no chance of an education.

“I realised I didn’t know enough about the issues and the more I learnt the more I wanted to share that information in schools and try to influence younger people,” said Jess, who now only buys slavery-free certified tea, coffee and chocolate in her own home.

Within a few months Jess was working with ACRATH and Fairtrade Australia New Zealand to produce the Make Your School Slavery-Free kit which was launched in Melbourne in February 2020 to help students, teachers and staff eliminate slavery from Catholic schools by only buying slavery-free certified tea, coffee and chocolate.

The kit, an initiative of the Victoria-Tasmania Catholic Modern Slavery Taskforce, is available online on the Catholic Education Melbourne website. It contains a comprehensive guide to making your school slavery-free, starting with the staffroom and includes, ‘how to go slavery-free’ step-by-step, a sourcing guide, testimonials from other schools, information on Catholic Social Teaching that underpins the kit and resources.

“If young people learn about human trafficking at school, they will start making changes to what they buy and do better at only consuming goods that are slavery-free. And they will influence others. The Modern Slavery Act looks at compliance, but we also need people to understand why change is necessary,” Jess said.

Jess is currently working to expand the kit to include slavery-free certified school uniforms and sports equipment.

“Imagine if Catholic schools used their buying power and worked with uniform suppliers to ensure the supply chains were slavery free. That would make a huge difference to the people who produce our clothes. That’s my next goal.”

Jess suggests everyone look at the kit and use the sourcing guide to find where you can buy slavery-free certified produces. Make the change today, even if it is only with one product. Just pick something and change to slavery-free.

For more 16 Days Activism Against Gender-based Violence Campaign information and resources click here.

Image: Jess Brady – Project Officer and Simon Stephens – Education Officer, Catholic Leadership and Governance celebrating International Coffee Day with an ethically soured brew.

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