For day six of our 16 Days of Freedom blogs, one of our volunteers, Zainab, has reflected on her time as an intern with The Freedom Hub during her six-month study abroad program in Sydney. 

By: Zainab Attarwala 

For context, I interned for The Freedom Hub during my six-month study abroad program in Sydney, Australia. As a Californian native, I had a minimal understanding of the societal makeup of Australia. However, upon arriving, I was pleasantly surprised at the rich cultural diversity in Sydney, which reminded me a lot of the San Francisco Bay Area, where I grew up. 

As a first-generation South Asian Woman, I have a lot of familial and cultural ties to India and have often visited. Unfortunately, along with the beautiful culture, there is also an obvious issue with modern-day slavery and violence against women, such as forced marriage and servitude, to name a few. So, I was somewhat familiar with the idea of modern-day slavery but had no idea how rampant it was in Australia until I joined The Freedom Hub and learned about how it is entwined into the formal and informal business and societal sectors. 

How has volunteering impacted me?

The various forms of modern-day slavery also took me aback, considering I had also known about the common types present in “developing” countries. At The Freedom Hub, the clarity between what is regarded as modern-day slavery versus other forms of exploitation became much more apparent. My mentor, Scott, worked with me to write articles about modern-day slavery in different aspects of the business sector, such as the fashion, beauty, and hospitality industries. The more I learned, the more concerned but aware I became of my contributions towards modern-day slavery in such sectors.

I now make informed and conscious decisions when purchasing goods.

I take time to understand where these products are coming from and who’s being affected by their production. It might seem like a time-consuming process, but there are so many indicators and resources publicly available (especially on our website) that make it easier to shop ethically. 

Major Takeaways

One of the biggest takeaways from my time here was to question and hold myself accountable for my decisions. It’s easy to sit behind a screen and mindlessly shop thinking,

“Well, this is an established brand. Why would they need to exploit workers to save money?”

“This item is so much cheaper on this website.”

“Will my not purchasing from certain brands make a difference?”

Yes! Yes, it will! The more we shop consciously, the more we can inform others and pressure brands to change their practices! 

Hearing the survivor stories was incredibly impactful as well. Their resilience, courage, and strength to not let their past realities define their future was beyond inspiring. Hearing about their new life experiences with the amazing The Freedom Hub staff, such as going to the zoo, enjoying a self-care day, etc., always made me even more confident about joining as a volunteer after my internship ended.

Lastly, I want to shout out to The Freedom Hub staff! Their welcoming and compassionate atmosphere is such a breath of fresh air. Being surrounded by people dedicated to improving the world is an indispensable feeling I hope everyone can experience by interning or volunteering one day! It changed my life in the best ways, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for The Freedom Hub!

In tomorrow’s article, we will look at ethical consumerism leading into the Christmas and holidays. We encourage you to read and share each article with friends and family, start asking questions about each issue or topic, and support local businesses involved in the 16 Days Campaign.

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