CHENNAI, INDIA – Under a cloudy sky, the thumping of drums and the voices of folk singers drew a crowd eager to see what was happening. Under the shadow of the Gandhi statue at Chennai’s Marina Beach, a crowd grew, drawing dozens of school children, government officials, media personnel and NGO representatives to witness the launch of IJM Chennai’s advocacy and grassroots-mobilization campaign to raise awareness about forced labor slavery.
Many people within India are not aware that forced labor slavery is a massive problem – including those who are most vulnerable to it. The grassroots campaign will inform individuals who are most at-risk to being trafficked into forced labor slavery of their rights and mobilize them to act.
A.S. Jeevarathinam, a high-ranking government official, spoke to the gathering of 150 people to explain India’s strong law that criminalizes forced labor slavery.
A steadily increasing drum beat marked the beginning of a theatrical performance, a key component to the campaign that will reach individuals who are not literate or able to read materials about the pitfalls of forced labor slavery. Using song, dance and dialogue, performers creatively shared the story of five individuals who journeyed from slavery to freedom. The play will be performed in 50 villages across 6 districts.
“Right now, most communities accept the presence of forced labor as the norm. They are not mobilized to stand up against the issue because there are so many myths and misconceptions about forced labor slavery,” explained IJM’s Community Relations Manager. “The grassroots campaign seeks to change these beliefs through a street theater performance where the issue can be discussed at the door step of the villagers who are at risk of being trapped in debt bondage.”