Slavery still exists in the 21st century.
It’s hard for us to remember that, living our lives in relative comfort.
Unfortunately, the problem is closer to home than we think. Malaysia was once in the United States annual Trafficking In Persons (TIP) Watchlist, though we’ve been taken off it since last month.
These cases in Malaysia usually involve the tragically abused maids whose passports are stolen by irresponsible owners.
Without an identity and documents to get on a plane with, they’re forced to work in Malaysia basically as indentured servants. That’s on top of all of the human trafficking syndicates that sell everything from dirt-cheap labour to sex slaves.
No one knows this more than the souls at Project Liber8, who are all too aware of the devastating statistics—human trafficking is a 222.6 billion ringgit industry in the Asia Pacific alone.
So they’re here to take on the mammoth task of ending it, with young blood.
A Malaysian non-profit organisation, Project Liber8 has taken on the hard task of trying to turn this #unrelatable issue into something worth talking about.
They’re doing this by trafficking information instead, for youths across the globe.
After watching a harrowing documentary about modern day slavery, president New Su Shern founded the NGO in 2011 with only RM200 in hand.
Her goals: to change the local landscape with regards to this issue.
We caught up with Xueh Wei, Operations Director at Project Liber8. She joined Project Liber8 out of curiosity about this oft-ignored issue.
“The organisation was started not to just be another NGO. We wanted to be a body that complements other NGOs that are already in the business of doing the work,” said Xueh Wei.
“Awareness is not something that is seen as important but it certainly isn’t easier either. Our focus is on shifting attitudes and behaviour, which is why we take on the Triple A model—Attention, Attachment, Action.”
– Xueh Wei, Operations Director at Project Liber8
She tells us that a change in mindset or behaviour is hard because it also comes packaged with feelings of discomfort. Unfortunately, to change your ways is to realise that what you’ve been doing is wrong.
But why focus on the young?
“Youths today are one of the most resourceful and knowledgeable generation—we see time and time again youths revolutionising our world today; one of my favourite examples being Joshua Wong with the Umbrella Revolution in standing up against the political system.”
They believe that mobilising the skill sets of our youths would also contribute—whether immediately, or in due time—to more action-based solutions. The world could use more social changemakers.
Hey, young blood. What can you do?
Here’s another problem with human trafficking. Many of us, especially the youth, think that this isn’t their problem. “It’s up to the government and authorities to fix it,” we think.
So Project Liber8 started the Advoc8 campaign in 2015, aiming to provide a platform for the young to contribute their talents and skills to the issue of human trafficking.
“This has been a leap for us from advocating ourselves to creating more advocates to speak on the issue for us as well.”
This step in empowering the younger generation to actually do something instead of just being sad about human trafficking got the team some results.
“Our biggest milestone as of yet is reaching out to 1.6 million youths across ASEAN though the videos that our creators produced after attending our previous Advoc8 series event, Advoc8 YouTube,” said Xueh Wei.
Advoc8 YouTube got 8 YouTubers to create an Advoc8 PSA after attending their two-day workshop. There, Advoc8 also launched their human trafficking hotline.
Now they’re hacking away at the human trafficking problem.
As part of their campaign, the team also ran a hackathon in July—ADVOC8HACK.
It was won by “Whistleblowers” from Blockchain Technology Malaysia, impressing the judges with their usage of blockchain to fight human trafficking.
With 100 youths under one roof, it’s the first hackathon of its kind. And it got participants to ideate tech solutions that can help combat human trafficking.
“Since the human trafficking problem is so broad, it was great to hear many different ideas tackling different aspects. Project Liber8 is currently in the midst of assisting teams turn their ideas into reality—this is the sort of breakthrough we’ve been trying to achieve in Malaysia.
So they did find a better way to appeal to the youth, but their journey is still far from its end.
“Our ultimate vision as an organisation is to realise a #SlaveFreeMalaysia and to a bigger extent, Southeast Asia. It’s going to take us a while to get there, so bear with us, and stay close.”
Feature Image Credit: Kelana Jaya Rotary Club