Our heart behind women empowerment
We are often asked why Dressember primarily focuses on empowering women, rather than men. While it is true that men can be, and are also, victims of human trafficking, it is overall a crime that disproportionately affects women.
Despite most forms of human trafficking being criminalized in over 158 countries, the International Labor Organization estimates that there are 20-40 million people enslaved as we speak. Equality Now, a group dedicated to advocating for the equality of women and girls since the early 90s, follows up that statistic with the estimation that 54% of all trafficking victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation (about 11.3 million), and that 96% of those victims are comprised of women and girls. That’s over 10 million women and girls that are being exploited on a global level. Human trafficking is not only a gross violation of human rights, but also explicitly a crime against women.
There are a myriad of reasons why women are vulnerable and/or susceptible to being exploited, especially when the issue is viewed through global lenses.
There have been many positive movements for equality in the past few years. Many high profile celebrities have come forward denouncing sexual abuse and advocating for wage equality and women. Unfortunately, there are still gaps in pay and opportunities for education for women and girls that are pervasive across the world. With limited opportunities, women can be forced into compromising situations and traffickers are well aware of this reality. Stop Violence Against Women states that, “Women may become victims of trafficking when they seek assistance to obtain employment, work permits, visas and other travel documents. Traffickers prey on women’s vulnerable circumstances and may lure them into crime networks through deceit and false promises of decent working conditions and fair pay.”
Women Wins guides and informs readers that, “Gender-based violence involves men and women, in which the female is usually the target, and is derived from unequal power relationships between men and women. Violence is directed specifically against a woman because she is a woman or affects women disproportionately.” Victims of gender-based violence can often be silenced or ignored, which creates an environment where women can be minimized and dismissed. Victims can suffer sexual and reproductive health problems, unwanted pregnancies and STDs, which in addition to severe physical trauma, comes with a great amount of shame and embarrassment due to the social connotations. With this often comes isolation, which again results in women not receiving the services they need for recovery.
The exploitation of women through sex trafficking is directly related to the men who solicit their services. Whether the local legislature classifies trafficking as legal, semi-legal or illegal, there still remains a demand for commercial sex that is not addressed in most anti-trafficking initiatives. It’s important to be survivor-focused, and to devote all of our energies to facilitating rehabilitative services, which many organizations and policy pieces have taken in stride. However, if our advocacy doesn’t adequately address this aspect of demand, women will ultimately pay the price and continue to be recruited and exploited.
There are many reasons why women are primarily affected by human trafficking, beyond even what is listed here. At Dressember we believe that investing in women and using our efforts to empower them is part of our role in combating human trafficking. Every organization we can spotlight, support and collaborate with allows women opportunities to be compensated fairly and pursue dignified vocations. As we create space for femininity to be honored and cherished, we allow women to flourish in their gifts, talents and strengths. Empowerment is both an intervention and a prevention effort, and we are committed to that at Dressember.
About the Author
Stephanie Ramos (formerly Stephanie Elwell) is a film school graduate, who spent a year overseas in Tanzania as a missionary and has spent the last four years working in the nonprofit sector with at-risk kids and teens. She is passionate about minimalism, experiencing different cultures, cooking, writing and finding new ways to advocate in the fight against human trafficking. She lives with her husband Eddy in Naples, Florida and looks to the future with anticipation and excitement.