The billboard sign in San Salvador reads, “La trata de mujeres es un delito. Levantemos nuestra voz.” which translates as, “Trafficking in women is a crime. Lift up our voice.” This is a significant step for a country in which, only a year ago, the topic of human trafficking was virtually absent from the public consciousness.
Mission To El Salvador brought Free The Girls to El Salvador to help provide job opportunities to survivors of sex trafficking in the city of San Salvador. Guest blogger Danielle Snyder of Mission To El Salvador describes a typical day in the Free The Girls program.
As usual, it’s a hot and humid day in downtown San Salvador. I have all the fans cranking at the Mission to El Salvador center so I hardly hear the doorbell when it rings. I go to answer it and find Maria standing there. Maria is a young girl who will soon be transitioning out of a safehouse for girls who have been victims of sex trafficking. Her case has been prosecuted, and it is time for her to move on. She sits down at the table and we talk.
I explain to her how the Free the Girls program works, how she will have her own business, how we will help her, and how women around the world have donated bras so that she can have this chance. Her face lights up in a smile; I see a glimmer of hope in her eyes.
While we are chatting, another woman comes to the door. Anita has just returned from Guatemala. She was in the program selling bras, and then left the country. Our staff worried about her because we knew she was going to work with her sister who was on the streets again. But now she’s back, and I’m the one smiling as she explains to me that selling bras is what she wants to do. It’s a better, healthier, and safer choice–for her and for her young daughters.
Maria and Anita are two of the eight women that we have in the Free The Girls program here in El Salvador. We began a pilot program last year with four women and we have steadily added women over the last few months. Free The Girls has provided a valuable missing piece to the puzzle of helping survivors of sex trafficking.
Rescuing is done by law enforcement, and counseling is done by psychologists and social workers, but then what?
The “what” is that Free The Girls steps in to provide a crucial and transitional step to help women stay off the streets of San Salvador. Mission To El Salvador works hard to provide resources to survivors of sex-trafficking and, thanks to our partnership with Free The Girls, we are able to assist these women in starting their own businesses. They have opportunity, and they have hope.
Thank you for donating your time, your bras, and your resources so that Maria, Anita, and others like them have a chance. Something that may seem small to you is making all the difference in the world for girls in El Salvador.
Photos courtesy of Mission To El Salvador. To learn more about MTES’s implementation of Free The Girls job program, visit http://www.missiontoelsalvador.com/