A historic movement launched – shOUT for Freedom

shOUT (Slavery, Human Trafficking OUT) for Freedom, a Coalition of Non-Governmental Organisations formed to spearhead the movement against human trafficking in Tamil Nadu was launched on 13th August 2018 in Stella Maris College, Chennai.

A coalition such as this where several like-minded individuals and organisations are working collaboratively to end bonded labour in Tamil Nadu is the first of its kind in the State. It aims to bring an end to bonded labour by spreading awareness about the issue and by supporting the government as they address the crime.

Dr. Sr. Rosy Joseph, Principal of Stella Maris, opened the launch programme with a warm speech welcoming the dignitaries and students present in the college. She set the tone for the programme as she talked about the importance of working together to end human trafficking. She highlighted a study and said, “Human trafficking is the third largest organised crime in the world and close to 80% are victims of sex trafficking and the rest are of bonded labour.” Dr. Joseph applauded the efforts of the coalition team as the need for working against it is high in our State. “South Indian states are the most sought after destinations for human trafficking and Tamil Nadu is the highest,” she added.

The Principal’s welcome address was followed by a street play performed by passionate actors from the Mugavari Group. As rightly stated by the emcee, Rachel David, student of Stella Maris, the skit was, “A soulful, eye-opening performance that depicted the deep anguish faced by bonded labourers.” The skit exposed the realities faced by bonded labour families on a daily basis. Watching their performance, the crowd was moved to tears and they cheered loudly with great enthusiasm.

A speech by Kanniappan, a bonded labour survivor followed the street play. It complemented the skit as he shared from his personal experience about his life in bondage and the abuse and exploitation he faced. “The owner controlled us so much that it made us feel like we could not reach out to anyone for help,” he said. His story paved the way for Mr. Devaneyan’s introduction to what shOUT for Freedom is about. As the Co-convener of the Coalition, he invited the entire college to be a part of the movement by following shOUT for Freedom’s page on Facebook and Instagram. He invited them to be a part of this historic movement and ‘shout’ for those who are voiceless, suppressed and exploited.

The Chief Guest, Mr. Aameer Sultan, Film Director, echoed his words and enthused the students to join the movement. He also pointed out that it was evident that the intensity of the issue reached the students as they teared up watching the street play and listening to Kanniappan. He added that the coalition indeed is a giant leap towards ending bonded labour and human trafficking in our State. Saying these words, he flagged off the coalition.

Following the launch programme, a conference was held in the College on the same day. Experts who have been fighting against human trafficking delivered powerful speeches that informed the audience on the evils of human trafficking and how it can be curbed. Here are some quotes from the conference:

Nallakannu Even though slavery was abolished long ago, how does it still exist in our independent democratic country? Implementation of the law has to improve. We need to strengthen the justice system.

- Mr. Nallakannu, Senior Politician & Freedom Fighter

NairArticle 23 of the Constitution on India prohibits human trafficking. We the people of India have the right to not be trafficked. It is everyone’s duty – be it the shop keeper, bus conductor, teacher or the Prime Minister – to ensure that no one is trafficked. That is the Constitution of India. This Coalition is a very important step towards achieving the principles of our Constitution.

Children are a divine blessing. You can make a change. You can change a police officer, you can change the society. We should all together and send the message that our children are not for sale, our women are not for sale.

- Dr. PM Nair, IPS

Vidyasagar“We have been talking about bonded labour for over 40 years now. But when we talk about it today, there is hope. Today’s youth can bring change.”

- Mr. Vidyasagar, Former Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF

Ameer"When you go to Pothys, Jaichandran, Saranvana Stores (textile shops), ask the girls who work there where they are from. Find out if they are happy to work there or if they are forced.

You press that button. (Like/share button on social media)

You need to create a movement.

You need to shout for freedom."

- Mr. Ameer Sultan, Film Director, Chief Guest

PrinceEducational institutions play a major role in ending human trafficking. In a project led by the Social Work Department from MCC, the students worked with the government and corporates to build houses for survivors of bonded labour. An excellent model of networking that all institutions can follow.

- Dr. Prince Solomon from Madras Christian College