“Sustainable work/sustainable jobs”. You might have seen us throwing this phrase around lately and wondered what it means (and how it fits into the larger picture of our anti-trafficking work here at MY SISTER). When working against sexual exploitation, there are many facets involved in providing an effective “way out” for women and youth who are currently being exploited. Awareness is awesome. Immediate aid and aftercare is important. But that’s not the whole picture, and many anti-trafficking organizations only have the capacity to provide short-term care. In order for those affected by trafficking to get out of a bad situation, stay out, and begin to heal, there has to be a path forward and ongoing support. We believe that creating jobs that are safe and sustainable is a vital part of this.
A woman who is in a situation of domestic abuse will attempt to leave her abuser an average of seven times before leaving for good. Researchers believe that for a woman who is attempting to remove herself from a trafficking situation that number is even higher, averaging up to nine “escape” attempts. Why is this the case? There are a number of different reasons, like from fear of retribution or “punishment”, psychological brainwashing, and the Stockholm-Syndrome-like tendencies of those who have been groomed for trafficking through “love” and "affection" (for some who are trafficked, their abusers might be the only “family” they know).
Economic abuse, however, may perhaps be the largest contributing factor to the difficulty of breaking free from “the life”. Economic abuse refers to any situation where one person in a relationship (in this case, the “relationship” between the trafficker and the abused) controls the other person’s access to their own money and means of supporting themselves. If you have no money, no savings, no way of getting a job, no way to “make it”, you’ll likely return to the only way you know to survive. If a woman is able to find a job, her chances of being able to break ties with her trafficker are much stronger.
Creating jobs for those affected by sexual exploitation can be difficult, as years spent in “the life” can result in criminal charges, not to mention the negative stigmas that our society often places upon survivors. Where mainstream businesses have refused to offer a chance at employment, cause-based businesses have been increasingly stepping up to create jobs, and MY SISTER is a part of that movement.
We’re constantly self-critiquing our own awareness and give-back models to ensure that we’re being as effective as we can be in our mission to fight sex trafficking one tee shirt sale at a time, and one of our top focuses for 2017 is discovering how we can grow our capacity to employ women affected by trafficking:
1. Through funding jobs at other organizations.
Our #teesforaiyana campaign was our first foray into a direct, targeted effort to provide employment through fundraising. We raised $4,640 over just 6 days, providing over 380 hours of work for Aiyana (a new staff member at The Link, one of our non-profit partners)!
2. Through creating jobs at MY SISTER.
MY SISTER has provided employment for women affected by sex trafficking since the very beginning as a company, but this year we want to kick things up a notch by piloting a plan to bring more women in need of employment onto the MY SISTER staff. Our goal is providing not only sustainable wages and a safe working environment, but the opportunity to be mentored by our current MY SISTER staff members.
3. Through supporting non-profits that provide job skills training.
MY SISTER chooses the organizations we work with very carefully. One of our top criteria when searching for a new anti-trafficking organization to work with is whether they are able to provide a transitional program that includes job skills and life skills training and/or job placement.
Be sure to sign up for MY SISTER's newsletters to stay up to date on our progress with this year’s goals!