On Tuesday, UT students proved that the expression “standing up for what you believe in” need not always be taken figuratively. That morning, the students began a 27-hour Stand for Freedom in Gregory Plaza to raise awareness and funds for the 27 million current victims of human trafficking.
Emma DeCaro, public relations sophomore and Stand for Freedom event co-chair, said many people are surprised to hear slavery still exists as close to home as Austin.
“Lincoln abolished [slavery] 150 years ago, but it has manifested itself in less noticeable, yet still ugly, ways,” DeCaro said. “It hurts my heart to know there are people of all ages, ethnicities and genders, even in our own backyard, being exploited.”
Human trafficking generates $32 billion in profits every year according to the International Justice Mission’s website, the organization that sponsors UT’s Stand for Freedom campaign. Students on campus are attempting to raise $2,700 in donations in the 27-hour period ending Wednesday afternoon.
The money will go toward the rescue of slavery victims in 16 countries, including Thailand, Rwanda and Uganda.
Rebecca Dockall, radio-television-film junior and Stand for Freedom event co-chair, said she hopes people will understand the extent of slavery and be willing to fight for justice.
“These people don’t have a voice,” Dockall said. “They need freedom and we can help.”
Stand for Freedom is a nationwide event held on more than 500 college campuses.
UT’s event includes a fund-raising dance party sponsored by Red Bull, a balloon release meant to represent freedom and a screening of “Nefarious,” a documentary about the global sex trade. A few hundred students signed up for shifts, though only a couple students do so at one time.
Business freshman Natalie Chen said standing is a symbolic form of protest.
“I alone, just me, can’t bring about major change,” Chen said. “But standing here with everyone else and gaining attention can mean we’re all a part of a bigger movement with which change is possible.”
DeCaro said she hopes Stand for Freedom will help alert students to the nearness of some instances of human trafficking.
“There is a human trafficking unit in Austin, but because of the nature of their work they have to stay undercover,” DeCaro said. “Stand for Freedom and joining organizations on campus that fight human trafficking is the best way to support them locally and help them in their efforts.”
Published on March 6, 2013 as "Students stand against slavery".