Was it only ten days ago that I joined the silent caterpillar of about 80 people, mostly dressed in black and walking in single file through yummy mummy Stocksbridge, Edinburgh? Participating in this event, lasting a little over an hour, generated some enduring images and insights. I’m no Ivan Denisovich but have written about one day in my life to unashamedly canvas you to do something. Please put the 15th October 2022 into your diary. Why? Let me explain.
I live east of Dundee and bemoaned having to drag myself from a warm Saturday morning bed and realising I should have given more thought about what to wear. I understood why Walk for Freedom organisers felt everyone wearing black might increase impact but I was getting all stressed about which trousers, top, coat to wear? Did I have suitable black shoes? I was excited to be going to Stocksbridge with its’ classy charity shops. Yay! Then, more profoundly and not without shame, I recognised how my fretting about my outfit or what bargain I might bag were luxurious concerns in comparison to the daily worries of users, or potential users of the organisations involved in today’s stroll around a park.
After a few inspirational speeches and poem from a schoolgirl we were off. Every third or fourth walker carried a laminated message about modern slavery or human trafficking. I did consider going to the back of the line, to avoid being photographed, but realised the ridiculousness of this idea. I was here to be seen, to represent those unseen and unheard people, so what if my coat was grey? Time to show up and show I care.
Initially, walking uphill, at a pace clearly being set by young and healthier participants, I was most concerned for my own lack of fitness, a minor foot injury and feeling glad it wasn’t raining. It was only when I noticed how cars were passing very slowly that my awareness shifted to the softened demeanours of the drivers. I was ten minutes in before what had felt like my tiny contribution- two hours of a precious Saturday and a teaspoon of shoe leather- made sense. The ruck-sacked dad with four kids ahead of me, the mum and daughter behind me and I were all making a difference. How do I know this? The clue is that the car drivers slowed down. Even if just for one minute, whilst making sense of this unusual sight of eighty plus people walking silently in single file, they became aware that we, in Scotland, have a problem with slavery, the enslaved and the disenfranchised.
Pedestrians also stepped aside to make space. Some cast down their eyes. They seemed sad. Turning left to walk alongside the botanical gardens, resplendent with early autumn trees, the elderly woman stopped and grasped her younger companions’ elbow. From beneath her brown hat she looked towards our procession and mouthed an exaggerated “THANK YOU”. Two older teenage girls were comforting a third who was wiping her eyes and nose. They watched us intently. It appeared our message was the source of the tears. The loudest image is of one lone, young, Asian Deliveroo cyclist. Shouldering a large square, food carrier he had stopped riding, stood very still astride his bike, at a right angle from our straight line. His hand was over his mouth in a sort of “oh my God” moment. He looked to be in shock. I passed close enough to hear his breathing and wondered whether his astonishment for himself or someone known to him?
There very air on the main street smelled of respect. Despite room on the pavement many stepped aside or stood still, pairs of shoppers stopped chattering and seemed to echo our silence. Not so the child of about three “walking” towards me high on his dads shoulders and clearly asking what all the fuss was for. I caught a snatch the answer …. There are some very unkind people in the world and…..
Sceptics might ask what we achieved. Looking back I can answer. We managed to slow people down enough to create silent moments where they reflected on this ever present but often unseen crime of human trafficking. I and hopefully they experienced empathy with those unable to go shopping of a Saturday afternoon. I did notice some really nice things in charity shop windows but somehow, I didn’t care.
Have I tempted you to put next years’
Walk for Freedom into your diary? I hope so.
SATURDAY, 15 OCTOBER 2022
Dr. Linda Jones, SOHTIS Trustee
Call to Action
We can all be involved in being part of the solution to modern slavery and human trafficking in Scotland. Some as simple as raising awareness by following SOHTIS on social media and sharing our posts or joining our volunteer hubs, linking us with useful networking contacts and fundraising or donating funds.
Please get in touch to find out how you can join us in bringing freedom.
If you have suspicions, or concerns about anyone in your neighbourhood or your contact the MODERN SLAVERY HELPLINE on 08000 121 700, if there is immediate danger contact
POLICE SCOTLAND on 999