Faces of slavefreetrade

Faces of slavefreetrade

Meet slavefreetrade’s Youth Ambassador and Advisory Board Member, Evie Reza.  

Evie Reza is a 15-year old Youth Ambassador and a member of the advisory board at slavefreetrade. She joins slavefreetrade under a partnership with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Foundation (RFK), where she is presently serving as Youth Ambassador as well. Currently in Grade 10 at Zurich International School, Evie has always been passionate about fighting for human rights. Through her role with RFK and slavefreetrade, she is taking action and inspiring other youths to act.

Digital Literacy Framework illustrations by Marc Rosenthal for Teaching Tolerance. tolerance.org

What have been the biggest influences in your life? Do you have a role model?  

I would say that I don’t have one specific role model because I don’t think I can attribute all my motivations or goals to one person. Rather, there are multiple people who have influenced me throughout my life. My teachers, who taught me the importance of hard work and how it pays off. My parents and my family, who influenced me and my beliefs on certain topics, but also allowed me to make my own decisions. I think their willingness to let me have my own opinions and perspective has been a huge influence in my life, as I was able to become my own person.

Experiences have also influenced me: failures and successes. I would argue that failure influenced me the most because it showed me how I should improve to get to where I want to be. 

Experiences have also influenced me: failures and successes. I would argue that failure influenced me the most because it showed me how I should improve to get to where I want to be. 

From your perspective, what are the most pressing social and environmental issues of our times?

I think the most pressing social issue of our time is inequality, because within that you’ve got racial injustice, the refugee crisis, healthcare, hunger, and food security which are all major issues that need to be addressed. Inequality then can be used as a term to group some of these major issues together. When we look at racism, intolerance and unequal opportunities, for instance, these are pressing issues which do not go away in a night’s sleep. So I think that’s what needs to be tackled; inequality as a whole and within that, all these different areas. 

As for environmental issues, I would naturally say climate change and global warming, but I feel that is too obvious. The most pressing issue to me is poor governance in combating climate change. I see posts on social media every day discussing climate change, the current state of our planet, that marine life is dying and oceans are full of plastics, I see all of it. 

But then I look at the action being taken, and I find that it’s very minimal. Governments are the ones who have the power, people have elected the government to be the one in charge, so naturally, they have the power to save our planet, and right now I don’t see them utilising it effectively. When they start communicating and acting more effectively, that is what will ultimately make a difference in environmental issues such as climate change. 

Governments are the ones who have the power, people have elected the government to be the one in charge, so naturally, they have the power to save our planet, and right now I don’t see them utilising it effectively.

What impact would you like to create as a Youth Ambassador at slavefreetrade?  What about slavefreetrade resonates most with you? 

slavefreetrade wanted a youth ambassador from RFK to join their board, because they needed the perspective of a generation that they didn’t have on their board and that was my generation. So as a youth ambassador then, I would like to be a voice for my generation and to put their perspective forward.

Another reason that slavefreetrade wanted a youth ambassador was that they wanted to connect with our generation, and to reach out and get more engagement from us. Therefore, I want to create an impact by giving my generation more exposure to the pressing issues that slavefreetrade is tackling. By giving them more information on what slavefreetrade is doing, we can change their perspective on these issues.

What about slavefreetrade resonates with me the most? The fact that slavefreetrade is tackling an issue which is underrepresented and that little people know about. What slavefreetrade is doing is really inspiring, and I would say, different from conventional human rights groups that I’ve come across.

What slavefreetrade is doing is really inspiring, and I would say, different from conventional human rights groups that I’ve come across.

Do you feel the youth today are engaged on social sustainability issues? 

I would say that for myself, when I joined slavefreetrade, I became more aware of the extent of the issue [of modern slavery]. [With regards to the lack of awareness], I think that goes for a lot of young people that slavefreetrade is trying to reach out to. That obviously needs to change, so what I would like to achieve is to give my generation that same realisation which I gained when I joined slavefreetrade.

However, youth today can be engaged on social sustainability issues more than people assume; they are aware of it but at the same time, they are not doing anything extraordinary to combat it. I notice in some of my classes that we make a lot of connections to human rights issues that are happening right now. There is also Model United Nations (MUN) and debate, where we discuss social sustainability issues. But then, at the same time, other youths aren’t explicitly exposed to these issues because they’re not in these clubs or classes. So the opportunity to be engaged and take action is not there. 

How could we drive awareness and ownership of this issue amongst youngsters such as yourself? 

We can drive awareness and ownership of this issue by making information more available to them. The main reason why they aren’t engaged is because they aren’t aware of what’s happening; either they are not covering it in class or it’s not the main topic on the news. 

One thing that is very linked with this generation and the youth is social media. Social media has a huge impact, for instance, the use of hashtags and trends which create a lot of awareness. How can social media be harnessed to amplify the voices of young people on social sustainability issues?

Social media is one of the greatest advantages of the 21st century. We need to take advantage of what social media allows us to do. Those hashtags and trends go viral in seconds and it can be harnessed purely by starting an Instagram or Twitter account and making your voice heard. [Talking about Greta Thunberg], her campaign started because she sat in front of the Swedish government, that’s how it all started but then she went on her Instagram account and used her platform to spread her campaign to all corners of the world. We even had half of the school on a Friday skip school and protest because of Greta because she shared it with us on social media. Her social media has 10 million followers now and it spread her campaign massively.

We need to take advantage of what social media allows us to do.

As a generation that is heavily influenced by  globalisation  and social media, what, in your opinion, are identifying traits of youths that shape their attitudes towards sustainability?

What I see on social media is that people are posting on Instagram stories about issues that are so far away from them. I think what social media does is that it makes it really easy for those of my generation to notice what is going on in different parts of the world. I don’t know how many people read the daily news in-depth to follow all these news stories taking place. But, I know a lot of people that scroll through Instagram, and through this, they see all these different issues that are happening across the world. I believe this really changed the attitude of the youth towards sustainability because it’s making them more aware.

Looking at the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, that mainly spread because of social media. It all started in America but then the information spread online through Instagram and Snapchat, and we joined a protest in Zurich. There were thousands of people there with us because they all had seen it on the same platform. 

What would be your message to our readers about the role of youth in social sustainability issues?  

I feel the youth really know the difference between right and wrong and they can really see it. Right now we have all these teenagers who are so passionate about problems that need to be fixed, and it’s actually very comforting for the future that we have this generation who will be able to make real change now.

Right now we have all these teenagers who are so passionate about problems that need to be fixed, and it’s actually very comforting for the future that we have this generation who will be able to make real change now.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)