When I accepted this fellowship I was primarily concerned with sex trafficking. What drew me to the movement was time spent in South East Asia, where I saw first hand the horrific truth of trafficking and sex crimes. What led me to further research was the fact that it’s not just happening in South East Asia, it’s happening right in your hometown to people just like you. Today, I continue to be drawn to the movement because I know that there are over 30 million slaves in the world, and only a part of that number involves sex trafficking; modern day slavery involves individuals being held against their will to perform acts for another persons economic gain. Whether we are talking about women forced to service clients in brothels, child soldiers forced to kill for their country, or sweatshop workers making below minimum wage in dire conditions just to make the clothes we wear on our backs, we can no longer turn a blind eye to the fact that there are more slaves today than at any other time in history. With the newfound knowledge that human trafficking isn’t just sex trafficking, but modern-day slavery, I pursue another personal goal: how can I live my life so as not to further the cycle, but be an advocate for human rights and social justice across the world?
This will be no east feat. But it’s do-able, and we can start today.
What are you wearing? Do you know where it came from? Are you walking on shoes that were ethically produced, so you know that your purchase went towards enhancing the life of another human being? These questions are hard to answer, but they aren’t impossible. I happen to know that the sweatshirt I’m wearing from Northeastern University was made by Alta Gracia, an organization that pays their workers a living wage, helping them to provide adequate food and clean water for their families. And that my crazy colored sweatpants were purchased in Ecuador, straight from the weaver I watched make them. But the rest of my clothes, shoes, and jewelry? I’d be embarrassed to find out.
Not For Sale created Free2Work based on the idea that there is a story behind every barcode. They grade companies based on their efforts to make sure that child and forced labor do not exist in the supply chain. Through the website, www.free2work.org, you can learn more about how your favorite brands compare. By downloading the app, you can pull up information on companies labor standards while you shop. As a consumer, you can use this information to better understand what labor practices you may be supporting with your purchases, and begin to guide your consumption habits towards decisions that positively affect supply chain workers.
Knowing more about the supply chain of the products you purchase every day will help you become a conscious consumer.
I’m not just saying this because I work at Not For Sale and believe in shameless self-promotion (I do!) or because I recently joined the Free2Work team and I want them to like me (is it working?) I’m writing a blog post about using Free2Work to become an ethical consumer because that is what I can do, today, to leave my mark on the movement. If one person downloads the app or looks at the website after reading this, I would consider this post a success. If one person scanned the barcode on a piece of chocolate before purchasing it, I would be grateful that you are further helping us develop the app. If that same person bought this brand of chocolate over this brand – I would be ecstatic. Because that’s how change begins.
We aren’t going to save the world overnight. But in researching where your products come from and knowing where you are investing your money, you will become a conscious consumer. And little by little, we can demand a change in supply chains, and help companies take appropriate measures to ensure that workers’ rights are upheld and protected.