The following blog originally appeared on The Escapades of Emily and is reprinted here courtesy of Emily Wilhoit, author.
It all started one Sunday afternoon when I was casually searching on the google, “organizations providing jobs saving those in sex trafficking”. Human trafficking is something that has plagued my heart ever since I found out about it my senior year of high school. All my friends were walking around with a big X on their hands with shirts to match it (thank you Passion & End It movement) and I remember being floored by the idea that women and GIRLS had their innocence ripped from them and their bodies sold against their will. Add 4 years and a few clicks later and I found myself on the web page for the organization, “Free The Girls”.
Reciting my elevator speech about Free The Girls has become a little too natural for me lately. “Free The Girls is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women who have been rescued from slavery get a job to support their families while they get back on their feet. They have 3 locations in Mozambique, Uganda, and El Salvador. The women take the donated bras and sell them in their local communities, learning basic entrepreneurial skills and literary skills when available. If you don’t have a bra, there is a donation page available where you can give a contribution that will help cover the cost of shipping!”. Sharing this resulted in many different reactions from people. The best is when you share this event with a friend who then tries to spread the word and will shout to their nearby friend, “hey! Have you met Emily? You should donate bras, she organized a drive next week!”. And then the friend looks at me like I have 3 heads because she thinks I am trying to collect old bras for myself. Another fun question I’ve gotten is, “So, you donate bras….. and then the women wear them?”. Lastly there is the inevitable misconception the name, “Free The Girls”, brings. I am sorry friend that’s a boy, that is not promoting a day women go bra-less.
My favorite thing about Free The Girls is its unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of these women without really going out of your way. Here in the great US of A women buy bras like they buy shoes. You pay a decent amount of money for a good pair, but also if you find a cute cheap pair you’ll buy them in three colors. Human trafficking is an easy issue to overlook. Women are mostly seen as prostitutes and then judged for what they do and not how they got there. If someone told you since the age of 11 that your worth came in your body and you weren’t good at anything else, or allowed to leave for that matter, and 6 years later you had the opportunity to run you might hesitate too. Where would you go? You probably feel embarrassed and ashamed. What would you do? You don’t have an education or a general skill set. Who do you turn to? These questions lead women to go back to doing what they know and what they’re good at. Without the opportunity to an alternative lifestyle, it’s hard to break free from the destructive cycle of sex trafficking and prostitution. This is a global AND local problem that won’t stop if people don’t keep talking about it.
Already people have donated over 200 bras and together we have raised $175! Human trafficking is a sobering topic but imagine the difference we could make if everyone donated a bra, wrote a single Facebook post, or made a one time $5 donation. These small acts come together to raise awareness and keeps the fight AGAINST human trafficking alive! I once read a quote that said, “Be fearless in pursuit of what sets your soul on fire”. Being an advocate for these women sets my soul on fire. Knowing that what we do today can positively affect someone across the world is incredible. These reasons are what pushed me to to get this bra drive together. Hearing no definitely sucks, but it only takes one to make it worthwhile. Since then, my 2 friends, Josh and Brittany, have joined the team and are helping me bring Free The Girls to UGA!