The Woman’s Club of Plant City is tackling human trafficking in a campaign that partners with a group that uses bras to provide a business opportunity for rescued victims.
Fatima was twelve years old when both of her parents died, leaving her in charge of three younger siblings.
With nowhere left to turn, the child was forced into prostitution to keep her family alive. While on the streets of Mozambique she met a man who took her and her siblings in. However, he refused to help her financially so she continued living as a prostitute while also serving as his “wife.” She left him severely bruised, broken and with two more children relying on her.
Fatima turned to a group called Free the Girls, an international nonprofit organization that provides sex trafficking survivors with assistance on their “path to freedom.” They offer opportunities for victims to have economic freedom, restored health, education and social well-being.
The GFWC Woman’s Club of Plant City is on a mission to help provide a chance at a second life for rescued victims. The group is hosting a Bras for Freedom event to collect new or gently used bras that will be resold by women partnered with Free the Girls across the globe.
“When they present the reality of human trafficking to us, what can we do at this level?” Patricia Wolff, chair of the international outreach committee, said. “It is horrific that at this time we still have this kind of slavery in the world. When I saw Free the Girls I saw the opportunity to do something for an issue that is global and that otherwise I wouldn’t have a way to do anything.”
Over 20 million people are trafficked globally, according to the Polaris Project, a nonprofit organization that works to combat and prevent modern-day slavery and human trafficking. Of those, 26% are children and 55% are women and girls.
Wolff said she was drawn to Free the Girls because the group is not asking for money. Instead, they need something many people no longer use. Women can donate bras they haven’t worn in years and lives can be changed.
She decided to open the event to the public in order to offer Plant City a chance to tackle an issue that she said many often feel is too large to create change. Free the Girls has impacted lives in El Salvador, Mozambique and Uganda. Women have been able to start a second life with the help of the group and Wolff said she is excited to see how the community will respond to the call.
Free the Girls is unique because it provides a business model that allows the rescued victims to work almost entirely with women. They own the business and thus are able to choose their clients, of which the majority are women. In the countries currently partnered with Free the Girls, there are little or no bra manufacturers, which makes the items a luxury product and ensures the women can always make a profit.
And all it takes to kickstart a redemption arc are donations of the product from people who no longer use them.
When Wolff lived in Mexico she created a group called Young Professionals that worked on connecting people in the area to pour back into the community. After moving to Plant City she worked to bring that same mindset into every project she was involved with. She said this campaign is a perfect way for every person in the city, regardless of how busy they are or their economic status, to make a difference.
“I’ve always said ‘Use your talents for the greater good,’” Wolff said. “My belief for life is you can do so much with who you are. You don’t have to give your money or your resources, give your skill. Everyone can make a difference if they decide to take the time to help someone else. You can do things for others and you can grow at the same time.”
The Bras for Freedom event will be collecting new or gently used bras from now until Jan. 9. At the Feb. 13 luncheon, Wolff will announce two winners from the event who will receive a gift card. One will be from the woman in the club and one will be a community member who donated the most bras.
Once the items are collected Wolff will ship them to Free the Girls, who will send them as needed across the globe. Because the Woman’s Club is not asking for monetary donations with the event, Wolff is looking for a local business to partner with the group to ship the bras to a distribution site in Indiana.
“I feel like it’s amazing that a used bra can bring freedom and security to someone in need,” Wolff said. “Something as simple as a used bra can change a life. So many of these women have survived terrible things and without our help, they may not have a chance to start over. I’m happy the club responded so positively to the group and I hope the community will, too.”