Highlight on Students Ending Slavery organization on campus

By Chau Tang

Oct 29, 2018

We are living within a world that is constantly changing. One of the topics that still exists are modern slavery.
. On Oct 11, an organization, Students Ending Slavery,  a semester-and-a-half old student organization at Cleveland State University, helped raise awareness for this issue by selling fair trade coffee in the InnerLink.
In order to educate students, they have made pamphlets and spoke to students how fair trade and modern slavery affects us.

Jenna Thomas, president of the club and sophomore nonprofit administration and Spanish major, said she wants to spread awareness about modern slavery.

She found out about the non-profit, Free the Slaves, by reading a book called, “Blood and Earth”by Kevin Bales. When she researched about one of the ways students could help with bringing up this awareness, she formed this organization on campus.

Thomas said reading the book “Blood and Earth” opened her eyes to the issue of modern slavery.

“It really resonated with me,” Thomas said. “ It talked about the relationship between climate change and modern slavery.”

Thomas found out about Free the Slaves, which is an organization that tries to help slaves break away from the brutality, by reading “Blood and Earth.” From there, she researched the founder of the non-profit Free the Slaves, and found out she could create a student chapter.

Thomas gives out pamphlets to students with statistics about slavery around the world.

“There are places where slavery is more common,” Thomas said. “For example, India has the biggest population but it’s not just for slavery. There is forced marriage, sex trafficking, but forced labor makes up for half of the slave population. The 2016 Global Slavery Index stated 18.3 million of people are in modern slavery in India.

“Products we consume and wear such as bananas, coffee, chocolate and clothing can have the option for fair trade,” Thomas said. “Fair trade means the producers were paid well, had good working conditions, did not use slave labor and certified those practices.

Besides having a Cleveland State chapter of Free the Slaves, Thomas said she would like to try to include fair trade merchandise on campus. To raise awareness, the organization hosts events that offer fair trade goods and put fair trade products in locations such as the corner store, Outtakes, located on the second floor of the Student Center. The club provides fair trade teada and bark thins, but  Thomas said the organization would like to bring more awareness to campus and have products being implemented onto campus.

Rarely, companies would tell their consumers where they receive their minerals and food from. “ For instance, if you buy a sweater at the bookstore, there’s a chance those workers were not being paid fair wages if they were made in countries like Bangladesh or Cambodia where they have a lot of sweat shops,” Thomas said.

“The things we buy as students impact us,” Thomas said.

Students Ending Slavery is also trying to increase students’ awareness of the different types of certifications fair trade has.

There are many types of fair trade certifications. An example would be FLOCERT, Fairtrade International and the World Fair Trade Organization. Farmers should work in fair conditions and this certification helps verify that farmers are crucial to the supply chain and they help connect with distributors according to FLOCERT.

Although countries abroad have these problems, the United States has them, too. “Toledo, Ohio ranks fourth in the nation for human trafficking.” according to Cleveland19. Toledo is one of the capitals for human trafficking in the U.S because there are a lot of interstates connecting to it. It is common for sex traffickers.

During the week of Oct. 15, the organization launched a fundraiser for the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. It has a program for sex trafficking and sexual assault victims, so members are accepting donations of old phones and devices people recycle to raise funds for the center. The drop office box is in the Student Government Association office.

“When I bring up modern slavery, people are usually hesitant to recognize that it is still a big issue,” Thomas said.


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