This was one of the questions sparking debate and creativity during the Human Rights School’s Parliament at the International Slavery Museum. We were fortunate on the day to be joined by fantastic participants from Childwall Sports and Science Academy, Sandfield Park School, Calderstones School and Weatherhead High School. Though the students would ultimately vote 'No' to the question above, they proved the value of their voices being heard as ambassadors for their communities and change makers of the future. The activities took place on 20 November 2015, which significantly is International Children’s Day and Kids in Museum’s Takeover Day. 2015 also commemorated 800 years since the Magna Carta, arguably the foundation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Fundamental British Values. Students participated in a range of hands on activities including creative writing and visual manifesto workshops to explore their shared values and how to promote positive social change. David Skivington and Catherine Rubin Kermorgant, both acclaimed authors covering the subject of slavery in modern India, led creative writing workshops inspired by the Broken Lives: slavery in modern India exhibition. All of the brave and empathetic students produced astonishingly compelling fictions based on hard hitting facts. Both authors acknowledged the high quality of work produced but helped us choose two outstanding pieces by Lucy Bufton and Emmy Edwards, who reflected on child slavery in India. David Skivington said, "It is a difficult job to choose the best creative piece, they are all so good! In the end I have chosen Lucy Bufton's piece which is below. I felt it was quite harrowing and captured a lot of the emotion Joginis may feel."
"Ice cold terror. That’s how I feel, The leaves cut into my skin, making me bleed. The face paint is like a mask making it feel as though I’m not the one about to be dedicated to the Goddess. Everyone is staring at me, filled with anticipation. Once the ceremony is over, the elder men of the village will own until he bored of me. Then I’m nothing. I’ll just be village property...
Catherine Rubin Kermorgant said, "I gave the students the choice of three questions and the first was aimed at getting the kids to empathize with the children in the exhibits & talks — I can see how well it worked. The students did a WONDERFUL job. Please extend my greetings to them; it was a privilege to share with them".
The ceremony passed in a blur. That part wasn't so bad. The part after hurt. It felt like I was being ripped apart from the inside out. All I want is to be free, to be happy. However, I daren’t be. I’ll never smile, find love or have a true life. I’m a slave and always will be. Who Came up with this? How can this bring luck to the village? Please just let me die… or let me be me…" Lucy Bufton, Weatherhead High School.
"The thing that affected me the most was how the young girls were oblivious to what they were getting themselves into. It is wrong to take advantage of naïve, depressed young women and it is very tragic and upsetting that it does go on in the world. We are all humans with equal feelings, equal value and have the right to know what dangers lay ahead of them. We live in a modern, advanced world and it is disturbing to uncover that these ancient traditions still go on today, unknown by the vast majority of society nowadays.
We are grateful to David and Catherine for also participating in a panel discussion as part of our Broken Lives Events Series in partnership with Dalit Freedom Network UK. The next Broken Lives event which will focus on bonded labour in India will take place at the International Slavery Museum at 1pm on 30 January. See our what's on page for details.
We must unite and help these girls who think that suffering is the only way that they can provide for their beloved families. By giving these girls choices, we can enable them to live a joyful life, provide for themselves and their families and hopefully put an end to all forms of slavery forever." Emmy Edwards, Childwall Sports and Science Academy.