Representatives from 20 different student groups handed out fliers for a common cause at The Rock on Wednesday. Painted black and wrapped in silver chains, The Rock displayed a single statement: “The Chains that Remain.”
The collaboration conveyed the student groups’ opposition to human trafficking, the topic of this year’s Northwestern University Conference on Human Rights.
“(Trafficking is) the movement of human beings across national boundaries, largely against their will,” said event organizer Dana Foley, a Weinberg senior. “It’s usually for the purpose of forced labor, prostitution and also the use of child soldiers.”
NUCHR members invited cultural, religious and activist groups to help increase campus awareness of human trafficking, Foley said. The group runs the annual conference, which brings together students from across the country to discuss human-rights issues.
“Our primary concern is to create a campus voice around a singular issue so that trafficking isn’t an issue that just one human-rights organization is working on,” said Weinberg senior Michael Chanin, co-chairman of NUCHR. “Rather, it is something that affects all of these student groups in different ways.”
They made fliers and arranged posters around the South Campus plaza for each of the 20 participating student groups.
Ashley Davis accepted a flier as she walked past University Hall. The Weinberg freshman said having multiple groups participate made the effort more effective.
“After you get passed so many sheets of paper, eventually you are going to look at it,” Davis said.
Students gathered at about 10:45 a.m. in front of The Rock and began passing out fliers. On average, 10 to 12 students handed out fliers in the morning and about six students worked during the afternoon, Foley said.
Student response to the day was positive, she said.
“We got so many comments from so many people just walking through,” Foley said. “A statement really was made.”
Organizers said they thought this was the first time so many student groups had campaigned together for a single issue.
“The mission for having so many different diverse groups is that even though things on campus tend to be sectional – meaning there’s different schools, different sororities and fraternities, different clubs and organizations – you really can come together,” Foley said.
“Something like human rights, specifically human trafficking, is something that does affect all of us,” she added
McCormick junior Kyle Schafer, who handed out fliers as a member of Students for Economic Justice, said his group is concerned with human trafficking and the international exploitation of workers.
“We are very appalled and concerned that slavery exists and that it is related to things that aren’t that far removed from our lives,” Schafer said.
The third annual Conference on Human Rights, “The Chains That Remain: The Nature of Human Trafficking in a Global Context” will take place April 6-8, said NUCHR co-chairman Ben Snyder.
This year’s topic has a much lower profile than the focus on AIDS last year. Students don’t really know about human trafficking, said Snyder, a Weinberg senior.
The under-reported topic has made it harder to get students involved, he said.
“We want to teach the campus there’s a problem so they are interested in finding a solution,” Snyder said. “We want people to know that there are still people being bought and sold.”
Ambassador John R. Miller will be this year’s keynote speaker . Miller is the director of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and is also the senior adviser on human trafficking to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Also speaking will be Olara Otunnu, the former U.N. Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. Otunnu, who previously served as the Ugandan permanent representative to the United Nations, will discuss his work against the use of children as soldiers.
The conference is a student venture run through NU’s Center for International and Comparative Studies.
Each of the four panels at the conference will focus on human trafficking in geographical regions in terms of prevention, prosecution and victim rehabilitation, according to the NUCHR Web site. Every event is free and open to the public.
NUCHR has received about 150 applications for student delegates and typically accepts 50 to 60 students, Chanin said. This year 20 students from Washington University in St. Louis and 15 students from the University of Delaware will participate. Chanin estimated that between 85 to 95 delegates will attend.
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