Have you noticed a lot of people talking about human trafficking? Or about wearing dresses? Or the term “Dressember”?
Many people across the U.S. and Canada – including myself – are participating in the Dressember challenge: Participants wear a dress for all 31 days of December to raise awareness for human trafficking, also called modern-day slavery.
It is first and foremost a movement advocating for the freedom and dignity of all people, and working to rescue, relieve, and restore trafficking victims – and even prevent it in the first place.
When it comes to prevention, Dressember uses funds raised by advocates and participants to financially support programs that empower youth in group homes, foster care, and high-risk communities. Provided services include education, counseling, and teaching life-skills.
On the rescue side, Dressember partners, such as the International Justice Mission (IJM), Love 146, Cast, and more, work closely alongside law enforcement agencies to find trafficking victims, identify the offenders, and liberate those affected.
The care comes after, where organizations such as the previously mentioned Love 146 provide thorough care for survivors in the Philippines. The care that Dressember funds provide ranges from a hot meal immediately after rescue, to medical treatment, housing, and counseling for emotional, physical, and mental trauma.
Dressember thoroughly and continuously vets their partners, and follows a criteria consisting of collaboration, cultural sensitivity, measurable impact, innovation, and sustainability.
Going back to what trafficking is at its core, slavery exists in many forms including forced labor, trafficking, debt bondage, forced marriage of youth, and descent-based enslavement of children. It can start with a false promise of a job or educational opportunities, or even an at-one-point loving romantic relationship. Victims are then forced into labor, sexual exploitation, and domestic indentured servitude.
Dressember also closely aligns with the ethical fashion movement, encouraging consumers to question, “who made my clothes” or, “what was the real cost of this piece of clothing?” The fashion industry, specifically fast-fashion, is a huge hub for trafficking, with domestic servants and slaves being forced to make clothes in dangerous conditions for little, or more commonly no pay at all.
The at risk youth can be a multitude of demographics or sects, but specifically, children in the foster care system, LGBT+ youth, women and children from impoverished communities, and disenfranchised racial and ethnic minorities.
The epidemic of human trafficking is a daunting and extremely horrifying reality, but it’s organizations like Dressember and those who work behind it that remind us that freedom isn’t out of reach – it’s at our fingertips. Just in day one of Dressember 2019, over $200,00 was raised and by day two, $300,000 was surpassed. Dressember is a champion in the movement for freedom, and just one example of the great change our world is coming to see.