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Human trafficking is a serious problem. It's been estimated that 27 million people exist in some form of slavery today, and with perpetrators of trafficking raking in over $32 billion a year and going largely unpunished, it's hard to see a solution soon. But there's a reason to hope: stylish shoppers are making an impact!
What, you say? How can shopping help bring an end to human trafficking? While some victims are held against their will, others find themselves in indentured servitude working to pay off debts they may not have even personally incurred. Still others end up in situations where slavery is the only option in order to survive.
Survivors of trafficking need jobs in order to provide for themselves (and their families), or else they may have no other choice but to return to their lives of slavery. Several organizations have found a solution by training survivors to produce clothing and accessories and selling them online to the global market. Through these organizations, survivors gain job skills and earn a living wage while working in safe conditions. By purchasing these items, consumers can make a direct impact on trafficking by ensuring survivors have an alternative to slavery.
Below are two amazing businesses that are enabling survivors to make a better life for themselves, all while producing stylish products.
Stop Traffick Fashion
Stop Traffick Fashion (STF) is an online boutique that offers products from eight organizations that work with trafficking survivors. The items range from jewelry to bags to t-shirts, but all are fabulous. STF's founder, Emily Hill, hand-picks the most fashionable accessories from the vendors she works with, insisting:
I don't want my customers to make a pity purchase. I want to offer amazing accessories that people would buy anyway; the fact that they help survivors of trafficking is only a really great bonus.
While in Thailand seven years ago, Hill visited a home for young girls who were at risk of being trafficked. Upon learning about human trafficking, Hill knew she had to do something to help, but it wasn't until several years later that she found out how. At an event in London, she became acquainted with several nonprofits and small businesses that were combating trafficking by employing survivors and training them to produce jewelry, bags and other handicrafts. These vendors pay their employees (usually women) wages above market value and provide safe working conditions. In addition, they often offer other services ranging from medical and psychological services, education and rehabilitation.
Hill saw incredible potential for these products to be sold to mainstream consumers and with her business and marketing savvy, created Stop Traffick Fashion. STF's business model is similar to my last Dressed to Give feature, five ACCESSORIES, where in addition to providing income to survivors, STF commits to donating a percentage of its total revenue (not just profits) to nonprofits that work with trafficking victims. STF is looking to expand its product lines, with the eventual goal of opening a storefront. Hill loves that she and her customers are making a direct impact on trafficking:
The more products my vendors sell, the more women they can hire and save from a life of slavery."
Biographe is a new style brand created by The Blind Project to work with the fashion industry to raise awareness about trafficking and help survivors. Currently, Biographe is issuing an open source design challenge, asking designers to submit designs for clothing that are inspired by the stories of survivors. They are encouraged to "Be a Biographer" and tell the story of a trafficking survivor. Check out the video below for more info.
Designs are being accepted until September 15, then the public will be encouraged to vote on the designs from September 16-October 7. Fifteen semi-finalists will be selected, and a panel of judges will then select three grand finalists by October 21. The designs will be incorporated into Biographe's sustainable clothing brand, which will employ survivors of trafficking in Southeast Asia and reinvest all profits into partner organizations in the area that provide rehabilitation services to survivors. Follow Biographe on Twitter or Facebook to get updates on when their clothing line will be available for purchase, and be sure to vote on your favorite designs next month!
See, shopping really can make a difference! So grab your credit card, fire up your computer, and combat human trafficking... all while you're snagging some new accessories.