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Girls & Women

Empower formerly trafficked women while updating your wardrobe

Photo: Arunachalam_Muruganantham

A couple of months ago, here at Global Citizen my colleague Nina Stein covered the myths and realities of human trafficking and only a few days ago my colleague Murphy McAnulty covered some of the steps being taken in Vietnam to combat and prevent human trafficking.

Today, I have the chance to present opportunities to empower your dollars, Euros, Rands, Yuan, etc.- as a consumer!- to mitigate some of the harm done by human trafficking. Although human trafficking and positivity seem like an unlikely pair, I have 3 programs that are supporting women who were former victims of the sex trafficking industry while making some great products. Just consider it a bonus that you can get involved while updating your wardrobe, room, or gifting someone special with beautiful items made by these women. Not a bad deal!

But let's first recap real quick on some points that we know about human trafficking:

  • Although movies and TV-shows can be captivating and suspenseful, how human trafficking is portrayed in the media is often an unrealistic perception of what really happens when someone is trafficked.
  • There are 27 million people in modern-day slavery worldwide
  • There are approximately 800,000 people trafficked across international borders each year
  • Women and girls comprise 80% of transnational victims
  • 70% of female victims are trafficked into the commercial sex industry

However, while human trafficking is a huge problem, it's not an unbeatable one. As we learned from lessons from Vietnam, education coupled with prevention training and community tactics can protect potential victims from falling prey.

Now, here are the promised powerful programs providing former victims of trafficking with the tools and opportunities to empower themselves.

1. Sari Bari

A name like Sari Bari is cute and easy to remember. Sari is a traditional Indian garment that represents womanhood and “bari” in Bengali means home or house. A fitting name for an organization that started in the red light district of Kolkata, India and today employs over 80 former victims of sex trafficking. Women work on the production of blankets, table runners, bedding and more for fair wages with benefits including: healthcare, education for their children, paid holidays (25 days per year to be exact-that’s more than the majority of Americans), and retirement benefits. Initially, women start out in a six month training program (stipend provided) where they learn how to sew, read, write, and budget. After they formally start working for the company there are opportunities to receive promotions into managerial positions.

Check out their beautiful blankets (for adults and babies), bags and scarves on their website.

2. International Princess Project

The International Princess Project was initially inspired by founder Shannon Keith's trip to India. It started off as a six-women sewing project and has transformed into a 150-employee business providing opportunities for women who would otherwise be stuck in the sex trade.

Punjammies (these names just keep getting cuter and cuter) is the online platform where you can purchase products made at one of the International Princess Project's sewing centers. It features a variety of vibrant pajama bottoms -aka punjammies- named after some of the women in the sewing center. You can also find tank-tops and t-shirts to accompany your colorful bottoms.

You can feel at ease knowing that 100% of the proceeds are reinvested back into the company in order to serve more women and girls in need.

3. Purpose Jewelry

Through Purpose Jewelry you can buy handcrafted jewelry pieces made by female former trafficking victims in India. 100% of the proceeds go to International Sanctuary. International Sanctuary is an organization that empowers survivors of sex trafficking through a holistic approach by addressing the women's needs. They provide medical and dental care, education (including English lessons), counseling, scholarships, micro-loans and employment opportunities at Purpose.

The difference in Purpose’s business model is that it also works with victims of trafficking in Orange County, California in the United States of America. Yup, that's right. Human trafficking isn't just a developing nation problem; it’s also happening in some of the most developed nations in the world. Through your purchase, you help employ a woman in India who is making your product, and a former trafficking victim in Orange County, CA who is packaging and getting your bling to you. If that's not a great business model, then I don't know what is!

The discussion on human trafficking is hardly ever a pretty one. However, it's on us, as global citizens, to keep that discussion going while making positive strides in the right direction. Awareness and prevention are key in stopping trafficking from happening, but let's not forget that lives are to be lived and futures are to be made after being a victim of trafficking. Our money has the power to not only consume, but also to help.

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