“Regent’s Presents… Matt Friedman”

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On Wednesday 2nd May, the Regent’s School added yet another prestigious event to its ever-growing list of attractions. The Regent’s Presents – our free version of the famed TED talks – was inaugurated in true style with a presentation from Mr. Matthew Friedman, the Regional project manager for the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP).

At seven o’clock a variety audience of senior students, teachers, parents and visitors from other schools filed into the Globe Theatre for an informative evening on the issue of human trafficking. Despite the gruesome nature of the problem, the night was a treat; everyone found themselves bound by Mr. Friedman’s passionate presentation and undoubtedly affected by the stories he had to tell of his vast experience both working with victims and campaigning for the issue across the globe. This was evidenced by the number of questions asked at the end of the lecture, all of which Mr. Friedman answered with the ease of a person who really knows what he is working for.

Mr. Matt Friedman takes to the Regent’s stage. Mr. Matt Friedman takes to the Regent’s stage.

The problem of human trafficking is very prominent around this end of the world and the presentation was well tailored to Thailand, informing of the appearance of the issue locally and encouraging people to keep their eyes open. Certainly, many facts were revealed that the audience would have found surprising; for example, as Mr. Friedman pointed out, when people think about human trafficking they think about women and girls forced into the sex trade, but in reality this only makes up about 20% of the matter. Much of what is human trafficking involves a great deal of deception and unfulfilled promises of work, causing people to follow traffickers freely onto boats or guarded warehouses where they find themselves unable to leave, working constantly for no pay and in fear of the enforcers that keep them there for years at a time.

As Mr. Friedman said with resolution – human trafficking is the process of getting these people to such places, but what it leads to is slavery. Part of the issue is that people hide it behind technical terms that draw no emotive response but, “If something looks and smells and tastes like slavery, let’s call it what it is.” Indeed, many of the audience approached him in the end, wanting to know how they can help and how to get involved in a similar line of work.

Overall, the night was a successful premiere, with people leaving informed, some shocked into awareness and others into action, but surely none unaffected. According to Mr. Friedman there is a way for every person to do their part, whether it is active campaigning, reporting any suspicious activities and people in trouble, or simply being a responsible consumer and making sure the products you buy aren’t being made under dubious circumstances. As he said, we are all part of the new frontier against this issue and it is our responsibility to make sure we aren’t contributing to its growth. For more information on Mr. Friedman or his cause go to www.no-trafficking.org.

The Regent’s Presents will continue to bring interesting and accomplished individuals to the Globe stage to share their stories and answer any questions about their work. We would like to invite anyone who is interested to come along to future talks. A big thanks to Mr. Matthew Friedman for a great start to this event; to the Student Guild for providing refreshments and snacks; and to the fantastic people who came to enjoy the presentation – we hope to see you at the next Regent’s Presents in June. If you would like to recommend a presenter for a future Regent’s Presents evening, please contact [email protected]