Ringing the bell of freedom against human trafficking

Publié: 30 octobre 2013 14:20 CET

By Alexandra Hulse, IFRC

When the school bell rang at an elementary school in Rakovica, Serbia, on 18 October, it was not ringing to start a playtime like any other. As usual, the students assembled in the schoolyard and some of them were playing hopscotch, but this time the game was all about learning about how to avoid falling prey to human trafficking.

Red Cross volunteers asked the children questions, ranging from what to do when a stranger knocks on the door to whether children should accept gifts from people on the street. The students playing the game were keen to answer the questions and were supported by their friends with loud cheers.

A few hours later on Knez Mihailova, Belgrade’s main pedestrian shopping street, a peculiar scene was played out. In front of a shop sat a young girl with bruises on her face, her hands tied. Next to her stood another girl with red tape across her mouth. She sat in a box with the words ‘She can’t ask for help’ in Serbian and English. Another girl, dressed in a doctor’s outfit, leaned above a mannequin as if cutting out his heart. Nearby, Red Cross volunteers handed out leaflets to passers-by.

The activities formed part of the Red Bell Campaign to mark European Anti-Trafficking Day on 18 October. Across the country, 80 local branches of the Red Cross of Serbia organized events with thousands of volunteers taking part. Volunteers are at the core of the Red Cross of Serbia’s anti-trafficking programme, which has already educated 800 peer-to-peer trainers. A prevention kit – which includes two board games, puzzles and other presentation materials – have so far reached about 200,000 young and vulnerable people, including students and people in Roma settlements.

Volunteers have produced TV spots that were broadcast free of charge, they have organized trams in Belgrade and buses in six other cities to carry anti-trafficking messages to the wider public. It is estimated that at least 2 million people have been exposed to the anti-trafficking messages so far.

The Red Bell Campaign brings together four countries in the Balkans region: Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia Herzegovina, and the day was also marked in other countries, such as Belarus. Its aim is to address human trafficking in the region. Activities were focused in public places like shopping malls, on the streets, as well as in schools and at borders. Across the four countries, National Societies use the same logo: the red bell with the red cross emblem, together with the slogan ‘ring for freedom’.

The Red Bell campaign is taking a multi-pronged approach. It highlights the legal consequences for the consumers of services by trafficked people, and it provides information about trafficking and the rights of those who have been trafficked.

Importantly, it also targets professionals who may come into contact with people who have been trafficked through their work, and raises awareness more generally among the general population, and young people in particular.