An Advocate's Guide to Talking Points

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“It’s 30 degrees outside, why are you wearing a dress today?”

“Dude, what’s up with the bow-tie? Didn’t you have one on yesterday too?”

“I love your outfit today! What’s the occasion?”


These questions can stir both excitement and anxiety within Dressember advocates as we seek to educate the community around us about the reality that is modern-day slavery. The easy part is putting on the dress; it is explaining the complexity of this issue and the importance of taking action to people that were previously oblivious that has proven to be the real challenge behind Dressember.

While most advocates understand the basics of what modern-day slavery is, putting that understanding into words on the spot can be more difficult than we’d like to admit. To make it easier, we have compiled several talking points to help you explain why you are doing what you are doing and how it is making a meaningful impact in the lives of real people.

What is Dressember?

Dressember is a fashion challenge where advocates either wear a dress or tie/bowtie every day of the month of December to raise awareness and money for anti-trafficking efforts around the world. The heart of our advocacy is simple: we are seeking to bring dignity and freedom to everyone.


The next question normally following this is:

Why dresses?

And simply put: it is because we needed a flag; something to project to the world that symbolized our belief in the inherent dignity of all people and our recognition that slavery still exists in the world today.

Most importantly, the dresses are working. In less than 4 years Dressember advocates have raised over $3 million to support anti-slavery work and this year we have a goal to raise $2 million.


So what is modern-day slavery?

Most people have been taught that slavery ended in the 19th century with the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. It is often a rude and heartbreaking awakening to find out that there are more slaves today than any other period in human history.

When explaining this to your community it is important to define slavery as it exists today, since the models of exploitation look so different from the kinds we most likely learned about in school. International Justice Mission proclaims that slavery is the use of lies or violence to force another person to work for little or no pay.

This can exist in the form of sexual slavery, human trafficking, forced labor, police brutality, debt bondage, forced marriage,  and property grabbing. Statistically, we see that there are up to an estimated 40 million persons trapped in modern slavery today with the International Labor Organization estimating that slavery generates $150 billion for traffickers each year. The U.S. Department of Labor has identified 139 different goods from 75 different countries that are made with slave or child labor.

It is also important to note-and emphasize as an advocate-that modern-day slavery looks different in almost every community as well as exists in almost every community around the globe. These numbers represent real human beings with hopes and dreams and the capacity to feel pain. The A21 Campaign highlights this in their mission to “see the one, fight for the one, and sacrifice to restore the one.”


How does Dressember make a difference?

Although it would be easy to see Dressember as a feel-good excuse to go shopping for yourself before the holidays, that is not what we are about. When talking about the Dressember campaign one of the most important things to cover is where the money is going and how it is making an impact.

Dressember requires each of the organizations we partner with to showcase dedication to collaboration, cultural sensitivity, measurable impact, innovation, and sustainability in their approach to fighting modern day slavery. Our current partners are International Justice Mission, A21, and the McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center.

We seek to be a part of not only the rescue of modern-day slavery victims but also their path to justice and restoration as well. The money that advocates raise provides vital resources and funds that those working on the front-lines need in order to bring rescue, justice, and restoration.

It can never be reiterated enough that the Dressember campaign believes strongly in the inherent right to freedom and dignity for all people. And we won’t stop advocating until true freedom exists everywhere.


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About the Author

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Beth Woods is a lover of all things outdoors, animals, and random dance parties in the car. She lives in College Station, Texas where she is studying international relations and French at Texas A&M University and hopes to continue advocating against slavery for her career someday.