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US students lend their voice to “Slavery Still Exists” campaign

Inspired by the “Slavery Still Exists” Photo Campaign launched by the anti-slavery and trafficking organisation Polaris Project in 2005 in the US, a group of students from Stevenson University in Maryland, USA, have applied a similar photo-based campaign to raise awareness on slavery and trafficking through social networks such as Facebook, My Space and Twitter.

President of the Not For Sale club at the university, Ms Angelia DiGuiseppe, explained the concept of this new project: “It is called the ‘Slavery Still Exists’ Facebook Photo Campaign and the basic idea is to get as many people as possible to change their Facebook profile picture to a picture of them holding a sign that says ‘Slavery Still Exists’ and to keep that profile picture for at least one day. The goal is to raise awareness through starting a dialogue on slavery and trafficking among Facebook users.”

In 2010, the group persuaded over 150 students in Stevenson University alone to do just that and show their support for the campaign. The NFS group hopes that it can build a mass movement against slavery and trafficking by mobilising young people especially through social networks. It has set up information booths in different schools, churches and other venues to explain the campaign and its goals and to encourage people to show their support by having their photograph taken with a sign stating that “Slavery Still Exists”. Ms DiGuiseppe explains that the multiplier effect is then triggered: “We will then give them the link to where the photos will be online and then give them the option of tagging themselves or giving us their information so that we can friend them and then tag them.”

This year, a special virtual event is being organised on 27th March 2011 called “Change Your Profile Pic To Slavery Still Exists”. The hope is that when all of these pictures are up on the various social networks, a dialogue will be launched around the photographs and their meaning to raise awareness on a greater social scale. Students want to let their politicians know how they feel about these crimes against humanity and to make a difference.

Speaking in support of the campaign, Global March Chairperson, Kailash Satyarthi, called on all member organisations and partners to promote the work of the students in Stevenson University and to encourage others within their own networks to sign up to the campaign and help it achieve critical mass. “When we were contacted by Ms DiGuiseppe to explain her idea and seek our support, we were thrilled by the ambitions of this group of young people in Stevenson University. A central pillar of the Global March movement is that of participation of children and young people – meaningful participation in issues which affect them and their peers around the world. This is a wonderful creative and potentially powerful example of what young people can achieve using their own communications media.”

To participate in the “Change Your Profile Picture to ‘Slavery Still Exists’”, please contact the Stevenson University Chapter of Not For Sale: angeliadiguiseppe@gmail.com

For more information on Polaris Project on human trafficking and slavery, click here