The group stood in front of the University Library to bring awareness of the University’s culpability in the fast fashion industry.
Members of Slave Free Campus took a 24-hour-long stand outside of the University Library on 5 March to raise awareness about the University of Glasgow’s ties to the fast fashion industry.
The student-led campaign is run with the support of Just Love Glasgow, the Glasgow University branch of a UK-wide Christian student organisation committed to social justice. The demonstration, called Stand Up For Freedom, gave the group an opportunity to circulate their petition asking the University to stop the sale of clothing produced under conditions of labour exploitation and slavery.
In 2019, the University of Glasgow acknowledged its historical financial links with individuals involved in the transatlantic slave trade. The University has since pledged to allocate £20m to a programme of restorative justice.
“The University is doing a lot to acknowledge that the transatlantic slave trade was wrong,” said Bethany Lunn, who is directly involved in the planning of Slave Free Campus. “But we believe that the fact that people today are forced to work without the correct pay to make our clothes is just as important as historic slavery.”
Currently over 40 million people are estimated to live in slavery, according to statistics from the International Labour Organization. This includes bonded labour, domestic servitude and sexual trafficking. Workers employed in the global fast fashion industry, mainly young women and children in the Global South, are among the most vulnerable to over-exploitation and abuse.
Dayna Mathie, a member of the Just Love Glasgow committee who participated to the demonstration, said: “I don’t think it’s right for us to accept that people live in conditions that we ourselves wouldn’t even want to be in and that clothes made by enslaved people are being sold in our campus. If we want to be a forward-thinking University, I think we have to make a point of asking where our clothes come from.”
For the Slave Free Campus campaigners, demonstrating outside the Library for 24 hours is a way of making a strong statement, aside from reaching out to as many people as possible. “It shows how committed we are to being there for the people who live in slavery, in much worse conditions than we can be here in Glasgow at 2am,” said Ruth Hyndman from Just Love Glasgow.
For the organisers, it is essential to keep engaging with the campaign and amplify its message.
“I think it’s important to speak to one another and to make people aware of what’s going on. I wouldn’t have even thought of it until the campaign began and I actually started thinking about where these clothes are coming from and raising the issue with other people,” said Mathie.
The petition can be signed online through the Slave Free Campus Facebook and Instagram pages.