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Faces of slavefreetrade: Meet Virginia Garcia Romero, Youth Coordinator

Faces of slavefreetrade: Meet Virginia Garcia Romero, Youth Coordinator

Virginia Garcia Romero is a Youth Coordinator in the Secretariat of slavefreetrade, where she works on building a community of young allies ready to take a stand against modern slavery. She speaks to us about what drew her to slavefreetrade, her conviction in youths as being key agents of change in their communities, and how slavefreetrade’s Youth Program is helping to deepen youth engagement and action on modern slavery. 

Tell us more about you and your professional background. What made you decide to join slavefreetrade?

I am Uruguayan. I emigrated from my country when I was seven years old and grew up in between Pristina (Kosovo), Gran Canaria (Canary Islands), Laayoune (Western Sahara) and Brindisi (Italy). My peculiar upbringing exposed me to trans-frontier issues, to which a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution is seldom applicable. This pushed me to adjust my perspective, adopting a more international stance and becoming extremely interested in working towards developing creative and sustainable policy responses to humanity’s biggest challenges.

I hold a BA in Law, a BA in Administration and Business Management and a MA in Global Economic Governance and Public Affairs. I am a certified Policy Officer in European and International Organizations, and I serve as UNV Research Assistant for UNDP & UN Women’s COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker, leading the Americas Region Research Group (Governance Team). On May 5, 2021, I was awarded Profesor Manuel Broseta Foundation’s prestigious prize in University Legal Studies Manuel Broseta Pont by the hand of the Spanish Minister of Justice, for my academic trajectory and an original monograph on International Parental Child Abductions.

I decided to join slavefreetrade because I connected with its mission, vision and start-up culture. slavefreetrade is leading the way to a change in paradigm. Through technology it is featuring a systemic approach to end modern slavery, acting on the demand side of supply chains and bringing about transparency. Once I got to know slavefreetrade, I was inspired to be part of that very special group of people who are working hard for a world made in freedom, for every person, every product and every continent.

As a Youth Coordinator at slavefreetrade, what are some projects or activities that you’re currently working on?

Together with a team of inspiring ladies, we are working hard to build a community of young allies that are ready to stand up for a better world. One which is respectful, but most importantly compliant with human rights. With this in mind, we are designing and developing a series of initiatives and activities aimed at educating and empowering the youth on SDGs 8 (targets 8.7 & 8.8) and 12. We will discuss eradicating forced labour, ending modern slavery and human trafficking, eliminating the worst forms of child labour, protecting labour rights and promoting safe and secure working environments for all workers, but also ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns.

One concrete example of our planned activities is the Global Youth Forum, a flagship event of the Youth Program. It is being designed as an international event on modern slavery and sustainability, and it is meant to bring together young people across continents, along with their experiences and ideas.

Why do you believe that youths are important stakeholders in the fight against modern slavery? What is the power of youth activism?

The Youth is a critical stakeholder in the fight against modern slavery. I grew up hearing that young people were the future, only to now realize we are also the present. We are ready to be agents of change in our communities and private environments, paving the way for the future we wish to see. Our voices are relevant because they are that of those who will experience first-hand the consequences of the policies and decisions taken today. Our power lies in the intrinsic enthusiasm, idealism, creativity, and courage that resonate in us. But also, in our desire to make things happen rather than just talk about it. I believe that this sense of urgency that others may perceive as impatience, brings some sort of balance to a world slowed down by bureaucracy and reluctance to change old ways.

The United Nations has designated 2021 as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of ending child labour by 2025. In your view, how can youths actively contribute to this movement?

I’m a strong believer that youths can greatly contribute to this movement. 152 million children are still in child labour. It is a horrible violation of children’s rights, but how many children or young adults know that? How many know what is child labour and how to recognize it? Or about all the different dimensions that need to be considered in order to end child labour? By learning about human rights and children’s rights, by becoming aware of the different realities that exist around the globe, and by helping raise awareness, everyone can contribute.

One of the biggest challenges is ignorance…not knowing what is happening. Sometimes we lose perspective, believing children’s rights violations occur far away from “home”. However, the truth is it can happen anywhere. If we learn to recognize it, we can denounce it when we see it and find a way to help that child – irrespective of who it is. Knowledge is power and it is also one of the few things no one can ever take away from you.

From your experience at slavefreetrade so far, what insights can you share on how to better reach the youth and inspire them to take action? How would the approach be different?

There is great potential in the youth. When motivated and inspired we are a strong force, able to push forward any change. However, we are exposed to a lot of information all the time, and sometimes it can be hard to capture attention. I believe we must reach out to the youth through the appropriate channels. We need to be active on social media, communicating the way young people communicate. We need to be at schools, high schools, and universities to give them a chance to get to know [slavefreetrade]. We must be authentic and straightforward on what we want to achieve together. But, above all, I believe the youth wants to hear from the youth. Because they will be able to empathize better, connect, and believe they can be forces of change now…not tomorrow, not after they graduate or gain a title or degree…today. For this reason, the fact that slavefreetrade is promoting a program for the Youth by the Youth is inspiring.