What MyFreedomDay means for the millions trapped in modern-day slavery

By junior reporters Ariane Lee and Zara Rashid

In times of global uncertainty, we need to think about the most vulnerable members of our society

By junior reporters Ariane Lee and Zara Rashid |

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School closures didn’t stop students at HKIS from holding online seminars to mark MyFreedomDay.

It’s easy to take things in life for granted. You might think that you will always have a full, satisfied belly, a comfortable bed to lie on at the end of the day, and a roof over your head. You expect to be guaranteed the right to an education, and financial, medical or legal support if you ever need it.

Yet these rights are being denied to between 21 and 46 million people around the world who are trapped in modern-day slavery.

Tricked or coerced into slavery, these individuals typically live in poor quality, temporary shelters, often sleeping on the ground, exposed to the elements. They are forced to work long hours for extremely low wages. Even then, most of what they earn goes to someone else. They are routinely exploited and often abused.

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Modern-day slavery, or human trafficking, comes in many forms, and we don’t always know it when we see it. It’s easy to believe, for example, that it doesn’t exist in Hong Kong. Sadly, this is not the case. In fact, no country is entirely free of slavery.

That’s why every year on March 11, news agency CNN holds MyFreedomDay. It’s a day established to support student-led organisations working to raise awareness about slavery both around the world and here in our own city.

Hong Kong International School (HKIS) has been involved in MyFreedomDay for several years. Our school offers a course called Changemakers, where students can learn about the development goals that the United Nations is working to achieve – including the eradication of modern-day slavery. Students get the chance to fully engage with this issue – to approach it from all angles and look for actionable solutions.

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MyFreedomDay is a chance to consolidate everything these students have learned, as well as speak to organisers. That’s why, despite citywide school closures, students were determined to ensure that this year’s event went ahead. They felt that during this time of global uncertainty, it was important to shed a light on those most in need.

Using the hashtag #hkismyfreedomday, students made short videos explaining what freedom means to them and then posted them on TikTok and Instagram. For some, freedom meant being able to make their own decisions; for others, it meant being able to pursue an education.

They also took the initiative to hold a series of online seminars with the HKIS’ anti-slavery club. During these valuable sessions, Changemakers students had the opportunity to think deeply about some of the systemic problems in society that enable human trafficking to happen.

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One of the issues that came up was how ordinary people may be complicit in modern-day slavery without even realising it, due to something called the global supply chain.We may buy products from brands that use other private companies to source or produce their goods. To keep costs as low as possible, these companies further along the chain may exploit their workers.

As young students, we may not have the power to change laws, but as consumers we have a lot of power to change industry practices. We can choose to buy products from brands that ethically source and manufacture all their products.

Perhaps we won’t be able to see the immediate effects of our actions, but in the long term, we can make a tangible difference.

During global crises like the coronavirus epidemic, it is more vital than ever to think of the most vulnerable members of society, who may not have a safe place to go or access to health care.

MyFreedomDay still means so much to students at HKIS, and we were grateful to be able to go ahead with this worthwhile event.

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge