A woman's bra is not the first thing that comes to mind when considering ways to empower survivors of human trafficking. Yet this unassuming undergarment has the power to bring freedom and hope to women who need to support themselves in other ways.
As part of a national campaign, local activists are collecting new and gently used bras to donate to women in other countries who are trying to rebuild their lives after being trafficked. The survivors then sell the bras in their home country to earn a living and establish their independence.
Free the Girls is an Indiana-based non-profit organization that works in three countries: El Salvador,Mozambique, and Costa Rica. They collaborate with partners on-the-ground in those countries to encourage, equip, and empower girls and women to earn a safe income selling bras in the second-hand market. Their partners work closely to provide programming for holistic reintegration.
Locally the donation drive is being organized by the Anti-Trafficking Committee of the Franciscan Peace Center in Clinton, Phi Beta Kappa of Clinton Community College, and Attacking Trafficking in the Quad Cities. Bras can be dropped off between February 14 and March 7 at the following locations:
Clinton Public Library, 306 Eighth Avenue S., Clinton
Clinton Community College, 1000 Lincoln Blvd, Clinton
392 Caffé, 216 S. Second Street, Clinton
First United Methodist Church, 621 S. Third Street, Clinton
YWCA Clinton, 317 Seventh Avenue S., Clinton
Scott Community College, 500 Belmont Road, Bettendorf
Newcomb Presbyterian Church, 2619 N Division St, Davenport
Donations will also be accepted at St. John Vianney Church, 4097 18th Street in Bettendorf from February 22 - March 8.
According to the Free the Girls website, the second-hand clothing market is a thriving industry in many countries around the world. Bras are a sought-after item and command top dollar in the marketplace. By receiving a starting inventory from Free the Girls, the women are able to begin their businesses and become entrepreneurs in their own communities. This income allows them a safe economic opportunity, and for many of the women, provide not only for themselves but their children as well.
"For survivors of human trafficking and exploitation, it can be difficult to find a safe and sustainable income after they're out of that situation," says Jane Campagna, a representative of Attacking Trafficking. "This is a simple thing we can do that can help these women get on their feet."
The Franciscan Peace Center was established by the Sisters of St. Francis as means for integrating Franciscan spirituality with the mission of promoting active nonviolence and peacemaking, as well as advocating for social justice issues and care for the Earth. Most recently, the Center has focused on immigration reform, human trafficking, abolition of the death penalty, domestic violence and sexual assault, poverty, environmental concerns, and active nonviolence. More information is available at www.ClintonFranciscans.com.
Attacking Trafficking is a Quad Cities faith-based organization dedicated to ending human trafficking and to providing help and healing for survivors.