Adrian Sutherland

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TEDx Talk: Erica Greve Stresses Use of Social Media to Fight Injustice

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Anti-human trafficking advocate and Unlikely Heroes founder Erica Greve recently gave a TEDx talk at the University of Nevada where she addressed the power of social media to impact injustices worldwide.

The impetus for Greve's talk was her group’s trip to northern Nigeria in the wake of the kidnapping last April of some 270 local schoolgirls by members of Boko Haram. The Islamist terrorist group opposes the education of women and seeks to institute Sharia law whereby women are kept at home to care for their husbands and families instead of going to school.

Greve notes in the TEDx Talk that she arrived during the apex of #BringBackOurGirls, a campaign which had spread across social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram and saw people demanding action from governments worldwide on this issue. But the campaign, she says, soon waned in popularity which led to a direct impact on the ground.

“As soon as the collective voice of us — of you, of me and every student and every celebrity cheering out and crying, saying ‘we need to see the return of these girls — and as soon as that waned, the hope of the girls being rescued vanished along with the hashtag.”

Greve told her U of N audience that people she met upon her return to Los Angeles, where Unlikely Heroes is based, were “shocked” to learn that their social media campaigning had made any difference at all.

“It was giving families hope; it was giving Nigeria hope,” she said. “It was giving people an actual voice of resistance, to say ‘we will not let that happen.’ But somehow we did not know the effect we were having. And that’s why we began to let our voice go on this situation.”

To combat that apathy, Greve encouraged audience members and viewers to tweet and retweet government officials regarding social justice issues; to educate themselves about the facts of a given issue, beyond the story told by mainstream media; and to never stop advocating for issues about which they are passionate.

“What I do know is if in the future we learn to harness the voice and turn these whispers into a roar and start demanding that we will not let human rights violations continue to happen on this Earth, we will start to see injustices end.”

Greve, a social worker from San Francisco, founded Unlikely Voices in 2011 to combat child sex trafficking worldwide and to bridge the gap between state services and enforcement. To that end her organization has established schools in Thailand, Mexico and the Philippines to educate young women rescued from pimps and traffickers.

According to the June 2012 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report, there are as many as 27 million people living in slavery today, 75 percent of them women and girls. 

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