Survivors of human trafficking struggle to afford tertiary education and yet universities can play a significant role in combatting this crime against humanity. This is why Kendall Alaimo — a survivor of human trafficking, artist and international activist – is launching a campaign to raise awareness and encourage partnership by sending a vacant red chair to universities around the world.
As universities prepare to welcome students this fall, this higher education remains unattainable to the vast majority of thousands of trafficking survivors. This lack of opportunity to advance their education and achieve better livelihoods makes them vulnerable to re-trafficking and other forms of exploitation.
Ahead of World Day Against Trafficking on July 30th, Alaimo has shipped 30 red chairs to universities across the United States, from the east coast to the west coast, as part of her new program The University Alliance on Human Trafficking.
The demand from universities across the world also continues to grow and Alaimo has so far sent chairs to Scotland, England, Norway, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Germany, France and Canada.
“I am taking a stand so that my fellow survivors can take a seat. Universities are uniquely equipped to join us in the fight to combat human trafficking through the practice of restorative justice by creating room in classrooms across the world at academic institutions for survivors of trafficking. In short, we must educate to liberate,” says Alaimo.
“Assistance to survivors is mostly limited to shelters and therapy, but this is just the first step in the recovery process. Escaping the trafficker does not automatically mean surviving. Having access to education is essential for an independent life and ending the cycle of exploitation,” says Sandra Norak, a survivor of trafficking from Germany who recently completed her law degree.
Alaimo and Norak are both members of the OSCE/ODIHR International Survivors of Trafficking Advisory Council. “Survivor leaders are a key stakeholder in combatting human trafficking and an education creates the necessary tool for their effective participation in ending this crime. It ensures that they can fulfil their true potential in spite of their trafficking experience,” says Kevin Hyland, Former UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner and member of Council of Europe GRETA.
The red chairs are a symbol of the seats that must be created in reality and Alaimo invites all universities to join the Alliance: “I’m an artist. These seats symbolize opportunity, having a seat at the table and freedom. They reflect the anti-trafficking movement overall.