Tell us about yourself – family background, personal story, education, and previous professional capacities.
I live in Sydney or on Qantas. My background is in youth worker, strategic planning, human rights and international development. I had one of those families that shifted around a lot and I had lived in around 20 houses by the time I was 20. So I have learnt to make a home where ever I am. I live with my best friend who is my business partner and husband. We have an open home and always have people sharing our home. We have one daughter – who some people call a dog – our black Labrador Mo, some chickens and a sometimes thriving vegetable garden.
What is the importance of ethical fashion?
I don’t think anyone wants to be wearing someone else’s misery. Do you?
What is the importance of sustainable fashion?
We have moved to the “fast-fashion” cycle world where entire ranges and collections in stores can change every few weeks and consumers are expected to fit into this cycle and discard their old clothes and purchase the latest. A fast fashion cycle requires the work force who creates the garments to be incredibly flexible and there for they can also be disposable. The work comes in fits and starts and to match that cycle.
What is STOP THE TRAFFIK?
STOP THE TRAFFIK in Australia is a coalition of around 30 organisations from development agencies, faith groups, businesses and trade unions. We campaign as consumers and activists to end human trafficking. We work with business to raise awareness an help them with traffik-free business practices. Everyone who is trafficked is trafficked from a community to a community so the more people know what human trafficking is and what they can do about it, the harder it is for traffickers to operate.
What makes this pertinent now?
We now have more people in modern forms of slavery than the rest of history combined. It is not right and it is not sustainable. The world’s economic system cannot continue to operate on the exploitation
How severe is human trafficking and slavery in developed countries?
Human trafficking is the fastest growing illegal crime and the International Labour Organisation estimates that the profits as in the range of $US 150 billion. Where ever there are countries with large numbers of people who are poor who perceive that they can have a better future in places that are richer, human traffickers can deceive them. In developed countries, it exists and it is growing.
What about developing countries – especially compared to developed countries?
When someone does not have an education or a job future they or their families are more easily deceived. Human traffickers prey on people’s hopes and dreams.
There are over 200,000 girls trapped in human trafficking right now.
There are 200,000 girls trapped just in a small area of India working in the spinning weaving and dying mills through a human trafficking scheme called the Sumangali Scheme. This area supplies most of the world’s cotton knit fabric.
Could that be a low estimate?
That estimate is probably low. The scheme has recently been expanded to a nearby state. There has been a decline in the use of the name “Sumangali” but the scheme still exists.
How are these metrics derived from their evidentiary bases, their empirical foundations?
It is very difficult to calculate exactly the number of people who are trafficked. It is an illegal crime so people attempt to hide it and to hide their profits and to hide the number of people they are trafficking. No-one puts on their tax return or profile, “Profession, human trafficker” In Tamil Nadu where the Sumangali Scheme is operating, it operates in most mills, so my knowing the approximate total number of employees you can estimate the total number of girls in the scheme. There are local NGO’s and auditors who work in the factories and are able to provide fairly accurate figures.
What other work are you involved in at this point in time?
We work in the cocoa industry. Two thirds of the world’s cocoa comes from west Africa where mainly young boys are trafficked from surrounding countries to work on the cocoa farms. We work in tea where the form of poverty that tea pluckers and factory workers are kept in, generates a unique situation of poverty where human trafficking thrives. Here we are particularly focusing in Assam. We have been raising awareness about the trafficking in the fishing industry in Asia. We also work on raising awareness of the harm and abuse of trafficking in Australia.
What meaning or personal fulfillment does this work bring for you?
I love that people who would not normally come together, will come together to work on how to end human trafficking.
With regard to ethical and sustainable fashion companies, what’s the importance of them to you?
They are leading the way and showing how it can be done.