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Maintaining awareness of modern-day slavery during the holiday season

Educate, Engage, Empower.

It seemed impossible, but this year is finally coming to an end and we have officially entered the holiday season! Traditionally this is a season associated with fun and frivolities, however there is a more serious issue we would like you to consider.

It has never been easier to maintain awareness of modern-day slavery. We don’t have to look further than our own phones. We get news updates, social media posts and an opportunity to keep ourselves educated on the go. Information is literally available at our fingertips. In challenging times such as these, the power of social media has never more evident. It even has the ability to save small, independent shops from closing down during the Christmas period. And this starts with us.

The act of empowering another individual to become aware and conscious of the complexities of modern slavery is just as important as educating yourself. Spreading your knowledge to others is powerful. When you speak to one person about the reality of the fashion industry, they can pass the word on. Each of us can become a catalyst for raising awareness about anything we choose. Slowly, we are building a collective conscience about the journey of our clothing, who is involved and who is impacted by the production.

Perhaps not surprising, companies are struggling to stay open. Consequently, the number of jobs has been slashed. As clothing companies cancel or suspend orders from textile factories, it is the garment workers who bear the burden of not getting paid for their hard work. About 60 million people work in Asia's garment industry and falling sales have put many jobs at risk. Industry experts say that laid-off workers are likely to turn to exploitative jobs or may put their children to work to cope with the loss of earnings. We must pave the way to a sustainable future for both the workers and consumers in every industry.

During the first couple of weeks of University lectures, I was exposed to an interesting insight about farmers, which mirrored the position of garment workers in India. Farmers are far more likely to get involved in trans-national crime such as the production of drug crops, rather than the production of local legal crops, due to local customers buying goods from overseas companies who are cheaper and easier to buy from online. So, the farmers turn to producing and selling illegal crops for its attractive economic return. In our own society, we are guilty of choosing the cheaper option without thinking about how our choices are affecting the locals around us. Those overseas businesses who present themselves as the cheaper option are not always the best choice.

Research has shown that spending £10 with a local independent shop means up to an additional £50 goes back into the local economy. Much like the problems faced by the farmers previously mentioned, our local shops are suffering due to our actions. News about the struggle of small, independent businesses has spread wide and fast; battling to find their feet after supporting the nation during the first lockdown. It is our turn now to thank and support them, with national campaigns spreading in and around the UK encouraging everyone to shop local and/or seek a ‘quality alternative closer to home’. Initiatives have been introduced and encouraged by the public and supported by the government.

VISA last year supported 150 independent retailers by gifting them with personalised ads on billboards in six prime city-centre locations, and geo-targeted ads on social media for their