Students put focus on human trafficking

Cape Peninsula University of Technology's emergency medical sciences students have launched a campaign to raise awareness about human trafficking.

A group of Cape Peninsula University of Technology students is helping to fight the scourge of human trafficking with an awareness drive in high schools.

Stacey-Lee Alcock, a second- year student at CPUT’s Bellville campus, has spent four years fighting human trafficking, after having her eyes opened to the problem on a missionary trip to Uganda.

“We were doing a hospital visit, when a woman told me how she was tied up in her village and used as a sex slave by her husband. I was so horrified and did some research once back from my trip. This is when I realised the magnitude and reality of human trafficking happening in the shadows all around us,” she said.

Ms Alcock then joined the National Freedom Network, running meetings and doing outreach work with sex workers on the streets.

Recently, she got involved with the A21 campaign against human trafficking.

Its aim is to “reach, rescue and restore victims of slavery around the world”.

After a talk with the acting head of CPUT’s emergency medical sciences department, Dr Navindhra Naidoo, Ms Alcock and nine classmates launched an outreach programme in April to spread the message about human trafficking to high school pupils.

The nine students – Lidia Strydom, Susan Coetzee, Ruan Coetzee, Raihaanah Thiart, Josslynn Killow, Mlungisi Dutywa, Athenkosi Bhusa, Matthew Denton and Zayd Fredericks – also work with the A21 campaign.

“My teammates and I decided to target schools and professionals in Bellville as this was our shared community,” said Ms Alcock.

They have given presentations to departments in the university and surrounding high schools, including Excelsior High School and President Höerskool, as well as Blouberg and Stellenbosch high schools.

“Initially we focused on schools in the Bellville area, but following requests from other schools, we’ve now extended this area,” said Ms Alcock.

“To date, we have reached
2 544 people with our awareness programme and plan to continue presenting as opportunities arise.”

She said the response to the campaign had been “phenomenal” and high school pupils had signed up to help A21 spread the message about human trafficking.

“People have also been shocked, as teachers have approached us after presentations, claiming they had never heard most of what we brought to light and they were also very interested to incorporate content into their life-orientation curriculum as it is such a relevant and real issue.”

The presentations include information on the A21 campaign and its fight against modern-day slavery exists. There are also video clips of a trafficker and a survivor telling their stories.

“We tell them about the strategies that are used to lure people and what they can do to help the situation, even with limited resources.”

Cornel Viljoen, prevention and awareness coordinator for A21, said the campaign had a great impact, motivating many to take action, because students were talking to their peers.

“The students at universities are the future of this nation and will be approaching the working world after university. They are a vulnerable group due to the fact that they may be searching for part-time jobs or considering other opportunities in the working field.

“It is important for students to be able to identify false-work, education or internship opportunities so that they won’t fall prey to the schemes of traffickers,” she said.