November 20, 2022

Three ways that youth can become changemakers

Sella Ramadhani, Youth Program Director, slavefreetrade International

Three ways that youth can become changemakers

Youth advocacy on human rights has been a critical force in supporting social and legal enforcement of protecting victimised and underprivileged individuals.  You, too, can be part of the solution by increasing your knowledge, buying ‘fair trade’ and beginning fundraising or donation efforts. 

The politics of age have driven the world’s democratic engine for over a century. Young people are often dissatisfied by the world left to them by previous generations and are eager to mould it to their own vision —time and again, they have taken up the torch and blazed their trail through history. In the 21st century, youth activists continue to construct a better, more equitable future for themselves. Young people are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their global lobbying as evidenced at the WSSD in 2002, where representatives of the youth caucus led the debates one nergy and labour. Additionally, the youth intervention on the final day drew a three minute standing ovation from the audience. This was not just because the audience was being polite and that it was delivered by a ‘cute young kid’. Rather, it was because the young woman raised issues that other delegates had either overlooked or dared not raise – and she raised them in a direct, unvarnished way that appeared as a breath of fresh air.

Today’s youth are passionate about ensuring human rights and eliminating modern slavery.

They understand that modern slavery triggers worse conditions for future generations. And they believe, more and more, that human rights should be the core value of any activism. Activism is indeed needed, as there is no standard definition of acceptable workplace conditions using international human rights law, especially for entry-level workers, who are primarily young people.

It might not seem obvious but modern slavery is very different to historical slavery. What does modern slavery look like when it involves the 152 million youth and young workers who are subjected to it? Young people often encounter difficulties accessing education, quality employment, social protection and full access to civil and political rights — which limits their potential. According to a study published in Griffith University’s Criminology and Law Journal, nearly three-quarters of respondents reported experiencing some form of exploitative, abusive or harassing behaviour at their first job.


Young people as agents of change

One of the biggest challenges is the idea that we, particularly youth and young adults, can't do anything to influence the fight against modern slavery. Our choice is either todo nothing – sinking into despair thinking we're powerless – or to do what we can with what we have. Every experience and decision leads to a different pathway and these small life choices and acts build towards a bigger goal and vision. You may not be a globe-trotting emancipator, but you matter. Your efforts will make a difference.

Here's what young activists and leaders can do to create change around modern slavery issues:


1.      Increase your knowledge

The first and most crucial action you can take is to become well-versed in the subject of modern slavery. Dig a bit deeper after your introduction to the issue to separate the myths from the realities and geta better idea of modern slavery's multi-faceted existence. Become familiar with significant stakeholders and reliable sources of information, for example .  You can also read informative articles about issues related modern slavery at to learn more. By doing so, you'll strengthen your ability to direct others to accurate information and engage them on the subject.

Participating in conferences and other discussionplatforms is also a great way to connect with experts and engage with fellow activists slavefreetrade's Youth Program will host its upcoming flagship event, the Global Youth Forum 2022. Stay tuned to participate and join one of our conference calls.

2.      Buy ‘fair trade’

Change starts with the individual and re-examining how our consumer choices feed the cycle of enslavement is a good start. Slave-made products are all around us, however, we can still make small advances toward promoting and supporting ethically-made goods. It starts with the following question: What do I need to have, and what is a luxury item?

Practising this type of consumer activity is an exercise of mindfulness and gratitude. It makes us reflect on what we have, what we truly need and the implications of our purchases.  

When we need to purchase an item, we can then choose which one is made under the best conditions. One option is to download slavefreetrade’s new community platform, the Freedomer App. Freedomer enables consumers to use their combined voice to demand better working conditions for the world's most vulnerable and reliable access to information about the supply chain of products. It provides access to regularly updated articles, including valuable tips, insights and success stories on discovering and advocating for workers' issues. 

You can also create or join campaigns to petition brands for more transparency about their manufacturing facilities and supply chain.


3.      Begin fundraising efforts

Fair trade stores aren’t the only organisations looking to end modern slavery, and buying items isn’t the only way to financially support anti-trafficking work. There are many of NGOs and non-profits that run much-needed programs, from investigation to reintegration. However, these organisations require funding. Many of them have individual fundraising pages to which you can contribute. At slavefreetrade, we also give you a space to donate and support us to help achieve a slave-free world.


Every youth has a different calling in their advocacy with different levels of involvement. Given the options you can take, go confidently in the direction you choose and realize that you are an abolitionist. Take a look at the work of some young abolitionists:

1.       Middle and highschool students around the world have been fundraising for  The A21 Campaign.

2.      Read about Ellie Zika. She founded KidKnits at age nine out of a desire topromote fair labor and education in Rwanda.

3.       Watch a preview of The Arts Effect NYC’s play on sex trafficking and the commercial sextrade.


Now, it’s your turn. Be a source of hope wherever you are and know that there are others fighting modern slavery along with you.


Barlow, M. (2002) “The Right of Nations to Resist Cultural Homogenisation”, Alternatives to Economic Globalisation, A Report of The International Forum on Globalisation 2002,Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. San Francisco.

Rising to the youth employment challenge: New evidence on key policy issues / Niall O’Higgins; International Labour Office – Geneva: ILO, 2017