There’s a new face in the Dressember office! We’re excited to welcome Marissa Peden to our small team of passionate worker bees.
Welcome to the team Marissa! We’re so grateful to have you. Will you start by telling us where you’re from and what your favorite thing is about your hometown?
Thank you for the warm welcome, Dressember team! I’m so thankful to be here. I’m from a small(ish) city just outside of Orange County. My favorite part about my hometown was being able to get to the beach in less than an hour and the mountains in just over an hour. Best of both worlds! Gotta love California.
Will you tell us what role you play here at Dressember and what that includes?
As Dressember’s Director of Strategic Partners, I’ll be dipping my toes in lots of fun projects. Events is a big one, which is so much fun and really lets me express my creativity! Dressember already has a couple of awesome events; the Annual Kickoff Party and the 5K. I’m going to be working on, (or maybe I already am, shhhh), cultivating a few additional events to engage with our current Dressember community and expand it. My goal is to not only host Los Angeles events but also to encourage Dressember advocates to hold events in their own cities! Another focus of my role is to establish some great partnerships (holla if you work for an awesome brand or company)! I also get to chat with Dressember advocates, which is my favorite part. A community of the loveliest, warmest people EVER? Yes, please!
What drew you to apply for this position? Had you heard about Dressember or participated in the past?
Working with an anti-trafficking organization has been my “dream job” for years, and I honestly couldn't imagine a better fit than Dressember. I became aware of Dressember about a year ago and started religiously following the organization just after Dressember 2017. I’ve been so inspired by everyone’s creativity and commitment the last few years, and can’t wait to participate this year!
How did you learn about human trafficking?
I heard very minimally about human trafficking in passing, but I vividly remember discovering one anti-trafficking organization that really sparked my interest. At the same time, I was taking a class in college that explored terrorism, that was when I made a connection that intrigued me between terrorism and human trafficking. The more I learned about human trafficking, the more frustrated I became. I vividly remember thinking to myself, “Why did it take me so long and why did I have to dig so deep to find out about such atrocities?” It was in that moment that I knew I wanted to spend my life contributing to ending human trafficking, or at the very least generating awareness of it.
Marissa, I see that you’ve traveled a lot -- you have even lived in Italy and London for some time. What lessons have you learned from living and traveling abroad?
I have been so blessed to live in a few amazing places where I had some of the best experiences of my life. If you’re in college and you’re reading this, I highly, HIGHLY recommend studying abroad or taking any opportunity to move abroad... it taught me so much about life, culture, and personal growth/development. I learned that breaking out of your comfort zone is one of the best things you can do for yourself and that is when you truly discover what you want out of life.
Earning a Master’s degree in International Relations and Human Rights from Roehampton University, London is no small feat. What did you dedicate your research to while you were there?
As mentioned earlier, I discovered this connection I wanted to further explore between terrorist groups and slavery, specifically territories rules by the Islamic State (ISIS) in the Middle East. My research took a holistic approach to modern-day slavery, highlighting the role of gender-based violence, history, and international law; particularly constraints that the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the United Nations face in intervening with such cases. I chose to focus my research on this subject to give a voice to "ISIS Brides" - women and young girls who are bought and sold, forced into marriages and sexual slavery, and stripped of their human rights. My greatest hope is for my research to provide knowledge and awareness that women are being exploited and used as weapons of war in the present day.
How does the knowledge of what you learned in your studies play out in your life today?
My goal in my studies was to learn as much as I could, so that I could educate others by creating this “domino effect” of knowledge surrounding human trafficking. I take every opportunity to tell people about my studies and my passion by engaging in conversations about trafficking with hopes that they will pass along the information.
It is obvious that you have acted on your passion to make a difference in the fight to end human trafficking. Do you have some tips or encouragement for someone who is just learning about human trafficking and wants to make a difference?
At the time, when I was really engaged in my research, I had this moment of thinking what in the world am I actually going to do with all of this information?! I can relate to Blythe, Dressember’s CEO, on this one as she mentioned the same barrier - it is hard to find your place as an advocate without being a lawyer, doctor, or social worker. However, knowing what I know now, I wouldn't trade the pure knowledge I gained for any other career, there is nothing more valuable in my personal fight to end trafficking than being highly informed. My best advice is this, if you are passionate about creating change, learn everything you can and spread it like wildfire to others. Our voices are much louder together. Oh, and WEAR A DRESS or TIE every day in December! :)
Tell us about a woman who inspires you:
Malala Yousafzai. “I am Malala” is one of my favorite books. Give it a read if you haven’t and you’ll see why she’s one of the first people that come to mind for me!
We ask everyone we interview -- what is the craziest thing you have done (or would do) in a dress?
You’ll have to wait and see. ;) If I meet my Dressember 2018 fundraising goal, I will wear a dress to … let’s just say it’s not somewhere people usually wear dresses. Stay tuned, friends!
We noticed in your bio that you like to bake “sometimes healthy, and sometimes not so healthy treats." What’s your go-to treat -- and can we have some?
The most SIMPLE but most requested thing I make - my famous, good ol’ chocolate chip cookies. I can’t go home without my family requesting them! I bake much more often when it’s cold outside so steer clear of the Dressember office if you’re on a health kick around the campaign!
Okay, one last thing. What song are you blasting on repeat at the moment?
This is the hardest question of the entire interview for me to answer! At any moment you can catch me listening to electronic music, a French cafe station, or jamming to R&B. But TBH, as I’m writing this, I’m listening to Jessie Ware, one of my favorite artists. I really like this remix I just found ... “Say You Love Me - Shura Remix.”
This year, do something different. Take on the Dressember style challenge and pledge to wear a dress or tie every day in December. You'll challenge yourself, learn more about the issue of human trafficking and have a viable impact on those trapped in slavery around the world.
Registration opens October 1st, 2018
About the Author
Madeline considers herself a bit of a nomad, having split her time between three continents over the past few years. Now, digging her roots down in Southern California, Madeline spends her time crafting content for the Dressember campaign, doing yoga and exploring National Parks with her husband.