You have led a truly inspiring professional life, starting out as a human rights journalist for Greek National Television, working on policy, advocacy and communications for the United Nations and most recently as head of communication for Walk Free Foundation, an organization dedicated to ending modern slavery. Was there a particular event or experience that set you on this path?
As a student in Geneva I met and became close with people who were living with HIV and AIDS. It was a very exciting time because back then, the triple anti-retroviral therapy had been discovered and many people infected with the disease were benefiting from this treatment. Unfortunately, this was not the case for the vast majority of people living with HIV and AIDS in the developing world where treatment could only be a distant dream. I started working on TV documentaries that exposed this horrendous discrepancy. This work then led to a career at the UN working on developing policies and communication strategies on human rights abuses.
You must have seen so much. What issues do you feel most strongly about? Why?
Having worked for UNICEF for over 7 years, I feel most strongly about issues affecting women and children who are generally disproportionately affected by wars and conflict, poverty, environmental disasters and social injustices. I have seen how women and children suffer during a crisis and I have also seen how communities benefit when women are empowered.
Is there a common misconception about trafficking and modern slavery? Why do you think it is so infrequently covered in the media?
Most people think that slavery is a thing of the past and are absolutely horrified to find out that it still exists. They are especially shocked to find out that every country in the world is affected, including Australia. Media coverage on this issue has actually increased in the last few years thanks to the incredible work that many organizations are doing to shine a light on this issue.
What would you say is your biggest achievement?
I have been fortunate to work with some really great teams of people from unusually diverse backgrounds on a mix of projects, that I at least, have found fascinating. Without doubt, the most rewarding element of these projects has been the enduring friendships that have formed while working in often challenging environments where we were all well outside our comfort zones.
Along the way, I have met some incredible people from former colleagues who have written beautiful books, to young researchers making visits to countries like Ethiopia or Nepal to real old school journalists seeking to understand issues on the ground in the Balkans. I really cherish these friendships.
I admit that I’m also proud of surviving a particularly feisty live radio interview in French on a panel with Mauritanian human rights activist and a former Minister of Labour of Mali!
And what do you hope to achieve?
I am hoping to continue working on raising awareness of human rights issues that I feel passionate about. There are so many people whose plights go un-reported and deserve attention.
What does your typical day look like?
I start my day by making a smoothie and getting the kids ready for school. If we are not running late (which doesn’t happen as often as I would like to!), we walk along the beach to school. Once I am back home, I catch up on the day’s news by listening to the BBC World Service and reading the Guardian and FT and then start work on my projects. In the afternoon, I pick up the kids and we spend the afternoon together. A good end of the day is when my husband finishes work early and can join us for dinner.
It’s difficult to comprehend the magnitude of what you do, do you get any down time? How do you switch off?
By spending time with my kids and my husband, walking and getting lost in a really good book. I also love reading blogs on the Huffington Post!
Would you say you lead a balanced life? What does that look like for you?
At the moment, yes! Since I decided to work for myself, I am better able to juggle family and work and most importantly, organize my work around the children’s school holidays.
Do you see yourself as a ‘strong woman’? Does it resonate with you?
I do see myself as a strong woman - and luckily, I am surrounded by strong women! For me, a strong woman is someone who stays true to her values and convictions.
Who are the women that inspire you and why?
My mother. She was an adolescent in Greece during the years of the military junta. She overcame adversity and became a successful teacher and businesswoman.
Kadicha, an incredible woman I met in Northern Kenya a few years ago. She lost all 9 of her brothers to HIV and AIDS and set up an organization that provides schooling, health services and fostering care to children who have been orphaned in the area. Her story inspired CNN to produce a documentary, titled: “Where have all the parents gone?”.
Fashion Revolution is on April 24, why should we get behind this anti-slavery campaign?
It is important that we, as a community, actively participate in shining a light on this issue. By signing up to campaigns like Fashion Revolution, we are sending a strong message to companies that they need to step up their efforts to address forced labour in their supply chains. Let’s not forget that when slavery was first abolished in the early 19th century it was largely due to the efforts of activists.
How are advocates in the fashion industry making change?
If a company is looking into forced labour, it means that the workers making their clothes, are more likely to be making a living wage than if a company is totally ignoring this issue. By addressing forced labour, the fashion industry is actively promoting worker’s rights around the world.
What should everyone consider when they are buying an item of clothing?
If a piece of clothing is very cheap, then ask yourself if the person who made it was actually paid a living wage.