What if we gave the average woman the opportunity to partner with women who have been rescued from human trafficking?” ~ Co-Founder Dave Terpstra, 2010
So began the journey where an Emmy-award winning television producer (Kimba Langas) and a social entrepreneur (Dave Terpstra) walked away from their successful careers to try and change the world.
SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
Currently 27 million men, women and children are being held as slaves around the world—more today than in any other time in history. 80% of those slaves are women and girls–many of them victims of sex trafficking. There are a number of amazing organizations that are helping to rescue these women out of a life of prostitution, but what happens after they are rescued? Many safe houses and aftercare facilities are doing great work in providing comprehensive rehabilitation and educational opportunities to survivors, but often their resources are limited.
By partnering with safe houses and after-care facilities, we provide an opportunity for women rescued from sex trafficking to earn a living selling second-hand clothing while going to school, getting healthy, and caring for their families. Selling clothes allows them to work as much or as little as their school schedule permits. The women in our program receive their starting inventory as a donation, and are then able to buy additional inventory from Free The Girls for below wholesale value to help maintain their competitive edge in the marketplace. Revenue from inventory sales helps subsidize overseas program costs.
Let’s face it, ladies: the back of your underwear drawer is most likely a graveyard of bras you don’t wear anymore or that never fit right in the first place. By contrast, second-hand clothing is a profitable market in many countries around the world. Bras are sought after items. Some of the girls in our program are making 5x the minimum wage in their community by selling bras! And even better, bras provide an opportunity for these women to work with other women, since they have a history of being abused and used by men.
Free The Girls launched in August 2010, and to date we’ve collected over 300,000 new and gently used bras from women all over the world. In Spring 2011, working alongside our first safe house partner, Project Purpose, we launched a pilot program in Mozambique, Africa. The results of the pilot program were very promising—the women made 3-5x minimum wage selling bras.
In February 2012, we were featured in a 3-part series of stories by CNN’s Freedom Project. The response was amazing, with an outpouring of support from all over the world! As a result, we shipped 32,000 bras to Mozambique in July 2012. Since the bras arrived, we’re happy to report that we’ve been able to replicate the results of our successful pilot program and add more women to our program there, for a current total of 24. In fact, we recently shipped a container with 130,000 more bras. The women sell between 100-500 bras each per month.
CNN aired a 30-minute follow-up documentary on Free The Girls on February 15, 2013 (watch online here). The media exposure has introduced us to new partners, and we recently launched 3 new programs with after-care providers in Uganda and El Salvador–increasing the total number of women we serve to 58. We are currently exploring launching additional pilot programs in Lesotho and Mexico.