Durham’s Human Trafficking Awareness Week invited students to a range of events aimed at highlighting the continuing problem of modern day slavery in the North East.
The programme, which took place two weeks ago, was hosted by Durham University Stop the Trafficking Of People Society (DUSTOPS), and included several fundraising events, a night of short film screenings, and culminated with a public petition signing at the Palace Green Debating Chambers.
It has been estimated that 10,000 slaves currently live and work in the UK, many of those in the North East, prompting DUSTOPS to emphasise the fact that “slavery is something that happens on our doorsteps.”
The society oversaw a ‘Sing Against Trafficking’ open-mic night at the Durham Students Union on the Tuesday in aid of anti-slavery charity Stop the Traffik before hosting a pub quiz with Feminist Society as part of the DSU’s ‘Give it a Go Week’.
On Friday a debate entitled ‘The State of Modern Day Slavery in the UK’ was held at the Debating Chambers and welcomed speakers from various organisations including Stop the Traffik, The Global Slavery Index and the Stockton-based A Way Out.
The week’s well-attended centre-piece was the North-East premiere of the ‘Unchosen’ Film Roadshow on the Wednesday. The free event at Hild Bede’s Caedmon Hall welcomed an audience of over 100 students and locals to watch three short films based on real-life tales of human trafficking.
The screening was followed by a Q&A panel hosted by Gary Craig, Professor of Community Development and Social Justice at Durham University, and Camilla Brown, UK & Ireland Coordinator for Unchosen.
The pair fielded audience questions after delivering speeches stressing the importance of such awareness events to the anti-slavery community.
“The Unchosen night was a great way of getting our message out there” said DUSTOPS president and Grey College student Joely Charlton. “We were so glad all these people came, including so many members of the local community.
“Thanks to that event we are hoping to make a sister community group for locals in Durham, who will be responsible for running DUSTOPS operations during the university holidays. It’s a very positive development.”
DUSTOPS also used the week to liaise with a variety of community services to encourage the clamp down on slavery in the area. On the Monday members of the society went to fifteen separate Durham taxi services to discuss trafficking issues and distribute information from Stop the Traffik.
Joely added: “Taxis drivers represent a frontline service and often unwittingly come into contact with trafficked victims who use their vehicles. If we can work with taxi companies to prevent that and ask them to keep an eye out for potential victims, it could really help our cause.”
DUSTOPS was established by students in October of last year and was founded on the conviction “that people should not be for sale”. The society already has over 200 members to its name and has overseen a range of charitable events since its inception.
The total eradication of Durham City’s ‘slavery footprint’ is one of the society’s key objectives and it is already one of the University’s most vocal groups, from organising energetic flashmobs in Market Square to leading a troop of students on a silent protest around the City.
Joely said: “We’re so pleased with how our HTA week went overall, we had hundreds of people engage with the slavery issues that matter which was great.
“I think the most important thing for us to do is to challenge the misconception that trafficking happens only in certain countries in the world, when it’s a global crime that occurs in every single country on earth including Great Britain.
“If we can make even the smallest difference to the lives of trafficking victims in the North-East, it will all have been worth it.”
On 20th February a speaker from Finance Against Trafficking, an offshoot organisation of Stop the Traffik, will come to Durham to discuss whether slavery is an inevitable part of the corporate supply chain. Please email email@example.com for more information
Follow DUSTOPS on Twitter: @DUSTOPS
Photograph: Durham University Stop The Trafficking of People Society