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Youth on the frontline of the fight against modern slavery: slavefreetrade and CAS Trips hackathon

Youth on the frontline of the fight against modern slavery: slavefreetrade and CAS Trips hackathon  

Including the next generation in the fight against modern slavery 

A priority in slavefreetrade’s approach in tackling modern slavery is the principle of inclusiveness. Global modern slavery takes many forms, implicitly and explicitly affecting countless people beyond state borders, socio-economic backgrounds and age groups. Oftentimes, the most vulnerable communities of society are trapped in slavery structures. Most worryingly, this includes children and teenagers, who make up a significant part of the overall number of individuals estimated to be exploited under modern slavery. Consequently, while the youth are often depicted as victims requiring protection, they have been excluded from the fight against modern slavery in itself.

However, slavefreetrade aims to change this narrative and to empower the youth by giving them a voice within slavefreetrade’s organisational structure. We believe that the youth can spur the movement against modern slavery by bringing in their enthusiasm, fresh ideas and new perspectives. Over the last years, we have all observed the capacity of youth to act in face of major global threats: the youth-led climate change activism spearheaded by Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement is one notable example.

Spotlight on the slavefreetrade and CAS Trips hackathon

In this regard, slavefreetrade launched a hackathon in cooperation with CAS Trips, to give the stage to youths. We had the opportunity to listen to their ideas on tackling modern slavery, and to understand their vision for slavefreetrade, including how to better reach passionate young changemakers of the future. Several project presentations by the students incorporated social media initiatives. Of these, one particular pitch stood out and eventually won the hackathon. This proposal, branded as #freedove, proved to be comprehensive in nature, and included strategies for spreading awareness of the contemporary realities of modern slavery, several designs and logos for the campaign, examples of potential social media posts and a detailed plan of action. This initiative had a two-fold objective of first reaching and engaging young students and teenagers and, subsequently, to take online action collaboratively. In practice, this would be achieved by creating a challenge of posting pictures of groceries from companies that are ethically consistent with slavefreetrade’s principles, under the hashtag #FreeDove. Besides creating increased awareness on social media platforms such as Instagram, this initiative would also create incentives for companies to comply with slavefreetrade’s standards on ethical conditions for their employees at the workplace, and within their entire production and supply chains.  

Finally, the winning team also suggested establishing ‘school clubs’, which would work mostly independently but with the support and guidance of slavefreetrade. This component of the project resonated with us, since it would create an excellent foundation for ensuring a stable and fruitful involvement of youths in the future of slavefreetrade, while at the same time, empowering the students to fight for what they believe in.  

Next steps 

Now that the winning project has been selected, it is our turn to support the students in whatever they need to make their vision a reality. This is where our youth ambassador Evie Reza and youth coordinator Burak Celebi come in: they will support and coordinate the efforts of the youths to make sure that all their hard work helps to bring about real substantial change.

Currently, the project is in its early stages, and Evie and Burak are in the process of gathering the teams together. For now, they are focusing on the schools in Zurich, Switzerland, which participated in the hackathon. However, they hope to expand as soon as possible to other schools in Switzerland, across Europe, and ideally, internationally.  

With the beginning of the holiday period in Swiss schools, the team plans to broadly roll out the project in September when the schools reopen. Until then, Evie and Burak will prepare the teams, collectively outline the specific objectives and work on the blueprint of the social media presence of the dove initiative.  

Modern slavery is not an issue that can be solved in a heartbeat or through the efforts of only a few, no matter their political power or wealth. In order to bring substantial change and end modern slavery, realistically speaking, we must tackle it from all angles and with a variety of actors, from states, civil society, and other institutions. Through this project, slavefreetrade seeks to build a path for the next generation of human rights defenders and changemakers by giving them agency and putting them at the very center of the movement. Ideally, the initiative will motivate young individuals by empowering them to take their destiny into their own hands, while still being guided and protected by slavefreetrade.

This article was authored by Evie Reza, Youth Ambassador and Burak Celebi, Youth Coordinator at slavefreetrade.