Earlier this week a report from the UN said that more than 40 million people were ensnared by modern slavery in 2016. That’s more than the population of the U.S.’s 29 biggest cities combined, FYI.
Of that total, 25 million people were victims of forced labor, and 15 million victims of forced marriages.
And, women and girls were disproportionately affected.
The new report by the U.N.’s International Labor Organization (ILO), the Walk Free Foundation and the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) found that women and girls accounted for 29 million, or 71%, of those affected by modern slavery. Women represent 99% of victims of forced labor in the commercial sex industry and 84% of people in forced marriage.
And that, my friends, blows. But you know what doesn’t? All the brands out there that are working to empower at risk women and help victims of human trafficking and human slavery. Not only are they working for a great cause, but they’re also making some pretty cute stuff. Read on to find out about some of my favorite companies that are doing just that.
The founder of Dear Survivor literally used to live across the street from a brothel. But even knowing all of the statistics about modern day slavery and human trafficking, as well as the numbers to call and the authorities to contact, she still felt powerless to stop what was happening right next to her house. It took two years for her, her roommates and neighbors rallying and reporting against it to actually see it shut down. Dear Survivor is her attempt to right the wrongs she’s seen. She donates 10% of every dollar to Generate Hope, a 501(c)(3) in San Diego dedicated to helping human trafficking survivors.
MY SISTER is fighting sex trafficking one shirt at a time. Their goal is to prevent sex trafficing, educate communities, empower the population, provide after-care for survivors and offer growth opportunities to at-risk women. They do this through the sales of their statement-making, ethically-sourced apparel and accessories. With a MY SISTER purchase, you can participate in the movement to minimize commercial sexual exploitation and dismantle the systems that allow people to be sold for profit to others, as a percentage of each purchase goes to their non-profit partners who help raise awareness, prevention, intervention, after-care, education, job skill training and ending the demand for sexual exploitation.
The Brave Collection
The Brave Collection is a line of jewelry handmade in Cambodia meant to celebrate bravery and empower women across the globe. It began when the company’s founder traveled to Cambodia to teach English. She was “mesmerized by the tangled synthesis of both the beautiful and heartbreakingly violent past of this small Buddhist country” in the wake of genocide, and the reality of human trafficking. She set out to combine her love of jewelry and philanthropic spirit to create a collection to celebrate this unique community, and connect courageous women across the globe. All of The Brave Collection jewelry is handmade by Cambodian artists who come from underprivileged backgrounds or suffer from disabilities. Their goal is to provide job opportunities to talented artisans, exposing them to a global customer and collaborating creatively. Additionally, 10% of our profits are donated to fight human trafficking in Cambodia.
Parker Clay began after the founders moved to Ethiopia after first traveling there in 2011 to adopt their first daughter. In Ethiopia they saw first hand how many young, vulnerable women and children without opportunity or education ended up in a life of prostitution, or even sold into human trafficking. While living there, they were also inspired by an incredible leather bag that they had found while searching for a birthday gift. They were in awe of the beautiful craftsmanship of the artist, and learned that the leather was to only ethically sourced, but also some of the highest quality leather in the world. They saw this as their opportunity to empower vulnerable women in the country through enterprise. Today Parker Clay is a luxury lifestyle brand that creates quality and timeless leather pieces through age-old craftsmanship and helps lift women in Ethiopia out of prostitution by providing them with jobs and education.
At its simplest, Rewritten is two girls trying to bring awareness to sex trafficking and make a difference. The company hears the stories of women rescued from sex trafficking and help tell their story through their hand-made cuffs, giving these women the opportunity to not only proclaim their true identity, but also share it with the world. The words on each of their bracelets are the words these women have chosen to describe themselves, not what their pimp or society or someone else says they are. The company also gives 30% of our profit is given to Bochy’s Place, a local transitional home, rebuilding women who have been rescued from sex slavery.
BRANDED exists to empower survivors of human trafficking through meaningful employment and economic independence. They seek to unite a collective of survivors and patrons who work together to advance the abolition of human trafficking. Not only does the company provide employment and job skills training for survivors of human trafficking, allowing them to pursue a lifestyle of financial independence, they also see themselves as a tool to create awareness. They encourage customers to “wear a number to restore a name.” Many victims of human trafficking are actually physically marked, or branded, by a number or symbol by their captors. The BRANDED Collective stands against this brutal practice, with each branded item stamped with an initial and a number — the initial belongs to the survivor who made your cuff (you can read her story on the company’s website), and the number is your unique number in the Collective. When BRANDED began in 2012, they stamped 100 numbers on 100 cuffs, today, they are more than 20,000 numbers strong.
BADALA was started as a fundraising organization after the founder came to the realization that people were dying because they didn’t have enough to eat. It evolved when she traveled to Africa for the first time and befriended women who were prostituting themselves to feed their children. She noticed that people were not asking for handouts, but rather looking for opportunities, so she made BADALA a place where these types of women could find employment. Today, BADALA not only employs women across East Africa and Central America, but also domestic sex trafficking survivors, in hopes of seeing both poverty and sex trafficking come to an end.
Were you shocked by these stats, or no? Any personal experiences with this? What other companies do you know that are working to end modern slavery or help victims of human trafficking?