My Story and reflection on modern slavery

By Deeksha Sharma

There is a saying in Sanskrit, “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, meaning ‘the world is one family’. But if the world is a family, why do we all let our family suffer? 

Despite being a person living in some small corner of this vast planet, I believe that my existence should have some meaning attached to it.

Looking back from where I came

From my school days, I started believing that my small acts can have huge impact on someone’s life. So, you see, there ought to be some important life lessons I learnt in school.

First, my school motto, ‘To Love Through Truth’ has taught me what the Dalai Lama says, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

Second, my school-house motto was “service” which connects me to Leo Tolstoy’s words, ”The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.”

From being a volunteer with children and women’s organizations or working with the Indian Red Cross Society to working with charities to end food poverty and interning with the Ministry of External Affairs and National Human Rights Commission in New Delhi, the quest to do my small part for nurturing humanity keeps dwelling in my heart, mind, and soul.

Crossing borders and dreaming big

“Good-Bye Delhi”, I said as the airplane touched the sky, leaving my dearest city and my country, India, below. The sky grew dark above and all I could recollect were the images of my parents, my family, and friends in front of me.

Expanding my view of life and learning, I came to England to do my postgraduation in development studies. The city of Brighton welcomed me with open arms and despite being an ethnic minority in the city, I engaged myself and blending with the local communities of which I became a part. I realised how small this world is yet so diverse that if it were possible, I would want to travel to every country that I see on the map, eat food from all over the world (vegetarian though) and dance on tribal songs in the remotest villages around the world. 

While working to help myself cover my living expenses along with my studies in the UK, I realised in depths how important work is for our mental and emotional wellbeing. I thus began to focus more on decent work, forced labour, exploitation, and mental wellbeing.

My thoughts echo with Charlotte Brontë’s words, “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”

But the very fact that there are around 40.3 million people strongly held in the clutches of modern slavery, makes me question the fundamental human rights that are universally guaranteed to every person on this planet. Appallingly, one in four victims of modern slavery are children, and women and girls accounted for 71 per cent of modern slavery victims (as per 2017 data). This surely breaks one’s heart but pushes and motivates us to do much better for this world and its inhabitants, for humanity.

Unforeseen miracle comes my way under the lockdowns

I flew back from the UK to India almost a year back now, only to land under house arrest and finding myself caged owing to the COVID-19 lockdowns.

It was amidst these difficult times that I got selected for the fellowship with Humanity Research Consultancy (HRC) in the UK. I was truly amazed by this opportunity and got impressed with HRC’s work in providing local evidence-based insights empowering policymakers to end forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking, globally.

I knew I was at the right place!

I admit to believing that human beings are the biggest miracle in life — the people around us, around you and me. I found myself surrounded by dedicated people who were working tirelessly to make a positive impact on the lives of the vulnerable and marginalized people in their communities.

Today, I am so glad to be a part of the organization that focusses on local insights for global impacts and whose efforts to end modern slavery are scalable. The unending motivation from the founder and director of HRC, Mina Chiang, and constant support from associate consultant, Sharlene, has left a lasting impact on my dedication to work with the organization.

As I opened my laptop for the sessions, it felt as if I’m traveling the world with people from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Needless to say, the critical reflections and insights from the experienced business growth consultant, Salil Shah and thoughtful conversations with other fellows made my lockdown days very productive and introspective.

I learnt how every person is so rich with their stories, which urges me to dig deeper and carve out countless tales to inspire this world.

Can we do better?

While I do not have answers for a lot of things on this planet, I’ve developed some reflections on modern slavery,

  • Educate ourselves about modern slavery and know how, where, why it exists. Start with yourself!
  • Become an aware consumer and check if the supply chain of your favourite brands and products are free from forced labour, exploitation, child labour, bonded labour, violence and sexual harassment, etc. Start with yourself!
  • Get involved with organisations working to eliminate modern slavery; campaign and raise your voice against the injustice you see around you. Start with yourself!
  • Nurture humanity and love with one-another. Start with yourself!

A lot of stories are yet to be told, but till then, I’ll pen down my poetic thoughts for you―

If you are reading this

I send my love to you,

For your lovers and the ones you love

And for the ones you hate too

For hatred can be solved

Not with hate, but love,

With love and humanity

We’ll all rise above.