slavery footprint campus challenge

Announcing the Winner of the Slavery Footprint Campus Challenge!

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Last Fall, Slavery Footprint partnered with mtvU’s Against Our Will Campaign in the Slavery Footprint Campus Challenge. Colleges across the United States participated by earning Free World points and taking actions to combat slavery. The school with the greatest number of points would win a trip to the mtvU Woodie Awards for 10 of their most active participants.

Today, mtvU announced that Georgia Southern University is the official winner! We’re so pleased that Lindsey S., the most active student in the entire challenge, has agreed to write about her experience for us. Congratulations students of Georgia Southern!

At the beginning of fall semester I suddenly started noticing strange posters all around campus, I had seen them before, but had never paid much attention to them until I spotted the word ‘slave.’ And yet when I read the poster, I dismissed it despite my curiosity, as surely, I couldn’t possibly have slaves working for me. Then, I saw that several of my friends were posting status about ‘Progress’ and how many slaves they owned. So naturally I had to satisfy my burning curiosity as to why 20 year old American college students were claiming they owned slaves. I had to get the scoop on what was going on.  

I was honestly shocked by what I discovered.

Call me ignorant, but I had no idea that modern day slavery was so prevalent. Yes, I had heard about the blood diamonds of Sierra Leon and children working for pennies in rank, cramped workshops, but I had never connected it to myself. I certainly never thought that I could possibly be supporting it, and yet, as I took the survey and listed off the seemingly innocent products I use every day  (batteries, makeup, sea food…) I began understanding the severity of the issue. The survey was easy, fun with a simple design that shot its message right from the computer screen to your heart.

The survey told me that I had 32 slaves. 32 people, human beings, working for me for nothing. I was taken completely off guard at the number. And of course, being the science major I am, I had to investigate whether or not the numbers were being randomly pulled out of a hat. Luckily, there was irrefutable logic being their numbers, it was true.

Next, came taking action. Again, through the amazingly easy and beautifully simple website, I started sending out email after email both to companies I knew, and those I didn’t. Of course, the steadily rising number of my Free World Points was a motivator, as it gave me something productive to do in the hour or so between classes and the breaks during studying, but what I found far more amazing was the fact that I was getting emails back. Some companies sent me multiple emails, all assuring me that they were in the fight against force labor; that they were constantly reviewing their supply chains, and some even sent me two and three follow up emails. Some companies, some that I expected to send me messages back, didn’t, which was another surprising and admitting suspicious outcome.  I know now which brands I’ll be using, let me say that much!

The Slavery Footprint website made it almost too easy to spread the message. Fill in your name and click send. Tell others about your progress on Facebook or Twitter, spread the word! And each time the little bar on the Progress screen would get higher and higher, dwarfing the bar that corresponded to your number of slaves to assure you that what you were doing really was making a difference. I mean, there was even an App for it! And again, the entire thing was designed in such a way that there was really no excuse not to participate.  If you have time to tweet about the girl you saw on the Quad, you had time to send some emails.

The entire experience was a literal eye opener. I never thought that what I buy could possibly be created using slave labor, I mean, it’s 2012, it’s time for the world to take a stand! Of course, the winning a trip to the mtvU Woodies was also a fun side effect, but hopefully now people will seriously begin to stand up against this truly shameful practice. Freedom is  a fundamental human right, so I say, let’s all do our part to make this a truly free world.