Fair Trade Jewelry and Ethical Fashion

Fashion as a Force for Good

by | Artisans

Read Time: 6 min.

Trades of Hope believes that all women deserve to be treasured.

For women in East Asia who are living in extreme poverty – without education or resources to survive – many become vulnerable to exploitation through sex trafficking.

When prostitution is socially acceptable in other cultures, it’s hard to imagine the lack of outrage when a teenage girl gets her first job working in a brothel, instead of a fast-food restaurant or trendy clothing store at the local mall. They have no public outcry, few advocates, and few to tell them that they deserve better.

Trades of Hope believes that all women deserve to be treasured. That’s why we’re partnering with Artisans in East Asia that rescue women out of sex trafficking and give them dignified sustainable income, as well as new hope through healing and restoration. We’re partnering to make more than beautiful jewelry, clothing, accessories, and home décor. We’re partnering to make fashion a force for good.

Healing Hearts

Chenny remembers the day her world changed, forever… or so she thought. As a shy teenager living in poverty in East Asia, she began working in a local brothel to survive. She was unprepared for the physical, mental, and emotional impact. But her life quickly changed, once again… this time for good.

“My older sister was already working in a brothel when I started to work in one as well. After I arrived, she realized that I would not survive that environment. She contacted a local Artisan community to come help me, and I have been working there ever since.” – Chenny, Trafficking Survivor in East Asia

But in spite of her new dignified income, Chenny was still in bondage. Like many survivors of sex trafficking, she was still enslaved to the anger she felt from the abuse she suffered in the brothel. Her Artisan community encouraged a holistic approach to helping victims heal and offered her many opportunities to empower herself.

Through mentoring and vocational training, Chenny gained a new sense of purpose. Through new friendships, she became part of a sisterhood. Through counseling, she experienced emotional healing and gained a sense of self-control.

Although Chenny can never completely forget her painful past, it no longer consumes her. Since becoming an Artisan, she is now focused on learning new skills, building new relationships, and pursuing new dreams. Recently married, she dreams of one day having children.

As a public speaker and advocate, Chenny now helps other women experience healing from the trauma of sex trafficking by inviting them to join her Artisan community and sharing how handcrafting jewelry changed her world forever by helping her find healing for her heart.

“Without my work as an Artisan, I would still be working in a brothel, struggling to survive.” – Chenny, Artisan in East Asia

Empowering Minds

Li Ya recalls the day a local Artisan outreach team visited her at the brothel where she worked in East Asia. Every week, volunteers visited workers and offered them opportunities to begin new lives, as Artisans. That day, Li Ya accepted their invitation.

Right away, more experienced Artisans eagerly shared their skills and knowledge with her, and Li Ya began to experience a new sense of freedom, dignity, and empowerment through learning. Li Ya’s mentors were also former victims of sex trafficking and understood her need for patient empowerment.

“I’ve been able to grow as a person in a safe environment. They allow you to grow at your own pace. They don’t force you to move at a certain speed. They work with you to set your own goals. I’ve been able to grow as a person in a safe environment.” – Li Ya, Artisan in East Asia

Learning inspired Li Ya to have the courage to dream again. Her new empowerment also inspired her son to pursue his lifelong dream. Li Ya’s income allowed her to move their family to be with and support her son while he attended culinary school. When he graduated, Li Ya missed her Artisan community. So, she returned to the city with her husband where she continues to create jewelry and empower her mind through learning.

“For the first time in my life, I’m able to set educational goals for my future. Having the opportunity to study has been really significant to me. Recently I earned my Microsoft Word Certificate, which is a moment I’m very proud of!

After passing the Microsoft Word exam, I’m studying hard to achieve my certificate in Outlook, as well. I’m excited to learn new skills and use them in the future!” – Li Ya

*Trades of Hope is excited to celebrate this update from our Artisan partners in East Asia about Li Ya:

Li Ya has excelled in our vocational training program this last semester. She received a certificate in math, literacy and computers! Her work ethic, positive attitude, and willingness to help others has not gone unnoticed. This semester she has been appointed to be a Class Leader for one of the literacy classes. In the past she was very afraid of public speaking, but today she takes initiative in her classes, shares during team building activities, and isn’t afraid to lead others.

Restoring Dreams

Like so many women who have escaped the brothels of East Asia, the trauma of exploitation and abuse stole more than Hong Fay’s sense of dignity and purpose. Mental and emotional abuse stole her inspiration to dream… to hope… to believe that she could be more than a prostitute. But local Artisans encouraged Hong Fay that she was created to be so much more. They helped her learn how to dream again through artistic expression, like helping them design and create new jewelry.

Hong Fay is one of the Artisans who inspired and created many of our earrings from East Asia, as an expression of their passionate belief that every woman deserves to be treasured. Feeling a sense of value and worth gives former victims of sex trafficking the courage to dream… and then to pursue their dreams. 

At 44 years old, Hong Fay had given up on her lifelong dream of becoming a mother… until a doctor discovered the cause of her infertility during a routine Artisan healthcare visit. She received treatment for several health issues and a year later, she became pregnant.

“Having my son is by far my favorite memory! Due to health insurance and health exams provided, I was able to discover health issues I had. I was able to get treatment and now have the family I always dreamed of. My son’s name means ‘extreme blessing and happiness’, and that is what he is!” – Hong Fay

Inspiring Hope for Trafficking Survivors

Chenny, Li Ya, and Hong Fay have all experienced severe physical, mental, and emotional trauma. But now, they are experiencing physical, mental, and emotional healing through counseling, education, and healthcare benefits they receive as Artisans. 

As they continue to reach out to other women who are still trapped in the world of sex trafficking – and more and more former victims receive new jobs, healed hearts, empowered minds, and restored health – fashion becomes a powerful force for good.

Trades of Hope is Fashion as a Force for Good for Sex Trafficking Survivors in East Asia

More East Asia Blogs

Click on each photo below to discover more about our Artisan partners and products in EAST ASIA.

Bai, Artisan in East Asia

Bai’s Story of Hope in East Asia

Fay’s Story of Hope in East Asia

Helping Women in East Asia Heal From the Trauma of Sex Trafficking

Helping Women in East Asia Heal From the Trauma of Sex Trafficking

Ling, Artisan in East Asia

How Sisterhood is Rescuing Women from Brothels in East Asia

Lan, Artisan in East Asia

Lan’s Story of Hope in East Asia

Mae, Artisan in East Asia

Restoring Hope to Victims of Sex Trafficking – Mae’s Story of Hope in East Asia

Fay, Artisan in North Asia

Stories of Hope in East Asia – Trades of Hope

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Kathy Thomas

Kathy Thomas

Kathy Thomas is an inspirational writer with a passion for helping women discover and celebrate their unique gifts and abilities. Kathy is part of the Communications Team at Trades of Hope focusing on Artisan advocacy.