Published: 18th October 2019
Walk for Freedom: Why thousands of students, citizens are walking the talk on human trafficking
In the lead up to the Walk, The Movement India has conducted over 40 awareness workshops about human trafficking reaching over 4000 participants across India in just 45 days
Freedom is a gift the privileged often ignore. According to the International Labour Organisation, in 2016, 40.3 million are trapped in various forms of modern-day slavery globally. Did you know that out of these, right now, there are eight million people trafficked in India for sex, labour, organs, forced marriages and domestic servitude, according to the Global Slavery Index 2018? If these alarming stats don't shake you from within, we don't know what will.
But, if you do want to do your bit then join The Walk for Freedom, the world’s largest event to raise awareness against human trafficking, happening simultaneously in 450 locations across 50 countries. In India and in Chennai, it is happening this Saturday on October 19, at the Besant Nagar Beach from 6.30 am to 8.30 am.
Walk for Freedom in Chennai last year
The Walk for Freedom is a silent walk where participants pledge to help end human trafficking in their lifetimes, and walk single file in a public place holding placards about the reality of human trafficking that raises awareness among the watching public. Globally, the Walk is organised by A21, an international NGO which is engaged in the fight against modern-day slavery. Here in India, a volunteer mobilisation platform based in Mumbai called The Movement India has collaborated with A21, who have together partnered with 47 colleges, corporates and NGOs across the country to organise the silent Walk at public spaces in Chennai and nine other cities.
"Each of us have the choice to step up and be the solution to the problems that surround us. Slavery should not exist in our world when we are alive to help put an end to it. We are walking in 10 cities across India on October 19. This event is taking place third time in a row in Chennai. It aims to create awareness that slavery still exists. We have a three-fold objective — one is to create awareness, second is to help people understand what are the indicators and lastly, if they see something or identify it then what they should do," says Biju Thampy, The Movement India's founder.
The event is being held in India for the past two years and it has been taking place across the world for the last five years. In 2017, The Movement India partnered with A21 and launched the Walk in Mumbai where almost 350 people turned up in support of the cause. In 2018, it happened across four locations in Mumbai and one location in Chennai where over 1450 came for the Walk. In Chennai alone last year more than 580 people joined and this year the organisers say that they already have over thousand registrations. "This event is being conducted with the aim of providing proper advocacy to the cause where government officials like child rights commission officers, child welfare officials, police officers, anti-trafficking NGOs, corporate, media, colleges all come together to take a pledge against human trafficking for their respective cities," explains Preejo TJ, who is heading the Chennai Walk.
Date: October 19
Time: 6:30 am - 8:30 am
Venue: Besant Nagar Beach
Walk route: Starting from and returning to Thalappakatti restaurant via Besant Nagar promenade
To register: visit www.themovementindia.com
Preejo explains to us that they have learned new things and strategies from the events every year. Like last year, it was more of event and less of awareness but this year they have focused more on spreading awareness. "I, personally went to Womens' Christian College, Stella Maris College, and corporates like HDFC bank, TCS and lot of others to address them directly, where interacted with close to 800 people. We conducted one hour awareness sessions on human trafficking on how we as citizens can help, what we can do, how we can spot and stop trafficking," he adds.
Preejo TJ conducting awareness programmes
In the lead up to the Walk, The Movement India has conducted over 40 awareness workshops about human trafficking reaching over 4000 participants across India in just the last couple of months. However, Preejo says that he realised something extremely disturbing when he conducted these sessions. "People have zero awareness about it — people are not aware that slavery still exists, there's still trafficking happening, they don't know the basic things like the children's helpline number. 90 per cent of the people I spoke to don't know about the helpline number. Thus, this entire event becomes more importan," he says.
They have had their own success stories through the years. "Last year, we conducted awareness sessions in TCS after which people came for the walk. Following this, one of the employees, who works in the Spencer Plaza TCS office — saw a lady and child, she was convinced it was not the lady's own child, she called the police and the helpline number and they came to the spot in an hour. They enquired and found it was true and they were able to rescue the child. Thus, our objective is to talk more about it so that people can help. We are happy to save one of the eight million traffic victims, one of the children that go missing every eight minutes in India. After these awareness sessions and walks, we feel that we are able to urge people to become the eyes and ears of the street, whenever they see something suspicious they should report it to the authorities," he adds.
Spreading maximum awareness
As far as their future plans go, Preejo says they want the event to be a platform for bridging the gaps between the NGOs, the people, the media, the govt officials — child rights commission, police officers, and bring all the stakeholders on one platform to make it a place where "we all can stand together, collaborate together, talk about it, and combat human trafficking."