Students Plead for Action

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Secondary students in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand will challenge a global audience, during the February 8 online pilgrimage, to make better choices when buying food, clothes and electrical goods, particularly phones. Exploited or enslaved labour is used in much of the goods we buy and students are pleading with consumers to ‘Fight 4 Fair’.

Students from five schools in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand will make their online ‘pitch’ during the online pilgrimage on February 8 marking the 2023 International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking. They have produced short video clips that will be shown at the early part of the pilgrimage, which begins at 7.30pm AEDT.

Click here to join the pilgrimage at 7.30pm AEDT on February 8.

While the pilgrimage is an opportunity to speak to a huge audience, the students are already raising awareness in their own schools and communities. The video, made for the pilgrimage, will build on this campaign work in their schools.

Ruth Bakogianis, Senior Mathematics Teacher/Social Justice Leader at St Mary of the Angels Secondary College in Nathalia, said students at St Mary’s in country Victoria know that most of their peers, when purchasing an item of clothing, give little thought to the conditions of the workers who made that item.

“This prompted the students to do a survey which found that most of their peers would be prepared to pay more to ensure a living wage is paid to workers in the fashion industry. They have campaigned for our school community to download an App which is used to find out the ethical fashion rating of the clothes and then to write to their favourite brands if they have a poor rating,” she said.

Killester College’s Year 9 students in Springvale, Victoria, used their video to shine a spotlight on mobile phones and the companies that produce them using cobalt. There is growing evidence that children, in countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are involved in the extraction of the cobalt, with no opportunity for education or to live like other children. There are also major safety issues for the children.

“We hope to raise awareness and to put pressure on big technology companies. Explaining this information to other students is quite a shock to them. They jumped at the opportunity to make the video. The plight of these children is so obviously wrong and needed addressing,” said Killester teacher Peter O’Neill.

Bridget Taylor from Geelong’s Clonard College had no trouble getting some Year 10 students to make the video after studying human trafficking for seven weeks in term 3.

“They (students) were very keen to know how they could make a difference as they were horrified, and responded with deep compassion and the desire to understand how this could be the case,” Bridget said.

Ana and Eden, Catholic Character Social Action Leaders at St Mary’s College, Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand, said it was difficult to imagine the hardships faced by children who were exploited and enslaved. “It makes us feel as if there is nothing we can do to make a difference. However, we remind others that we have the freedom to act and create change, unlike all those children who have had their freedom taken from them. By many individuals choosing to make a difference with the freedom they have, we can help restore these children’s rights,” they said.

Students at Red Bend College in Forbes, NSW, know about the exploitation of children in the production of chocolate thanks to college chaplain, Sr Elizabeth Young rsm.

“At Easter time we worked a lot on awareness-raising around slavery-free chocolate. We made sure that all our chocolate for the major Vinnies Easter raffle was ethically sourced,” Elizabeth said. Exposure to the issues of human trafficking was broadened when Elizabeth recruited students to help with the research and production of the video.

“This project was a great opportunity to involve students in research and activism with a major justice issue of our time that needs much more exposure. We will be showing the video they made to the whole school, to increase awareness and demonstrate the importance of our action,” she said.

Click here for more information about the February 8 events.