The Dominican Republic
Fighting Human Trafficking in the Dominican Republic – In the lush volcanic landscape of the island of Hispaniola, hidden beneath the warmth of the tropical sun and salty ocean breezes, lies a not-so-secret secret. Over six million tourists travel to the Dominican Republic (D.R.) every year.* Some never even notice. Others come because they know. (Read Time: 4 min.)
What is a Batey?
The D.R. shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with the nation of Haiti to the west. The rich volcanic soil makes the island ideal for growing sugar cane. Sugar plantations sprawl across the rural countryside with small villages called “bateys”, just beyond the tourist hot spots and resorts.
“Headhunters” often recruit workers from Haiti to work these plantations. Some workers arrive at their batey to discover there are no living facilities. Others are deceived by falsified paperwork and permits and find themselves stranded – unable to go home at the end of the season because they’re now living illegally in a foreign country without proper documentation to prove their identities. Workers’ spouses and children often become trapped, as well. Vulnerable and needing income to survive, they become prime targets for even darker forms of human trafficking.
The D.R. is home to the third fastest growing sex trafficking industry in the world.* Of the six million tourists who travel to the D.R., a shocking percentage travel there for the express purpose of sex tourism. Of the $150 billion (USD) generated globally every year by human trafficking, $9.5 billion (USD) is generated from this tiny Caribbean nation.* In a culture steeped with discrimination against women, many of these women working in the D.R.’s sex trade have no choice.
It is not uncommon for women in the D.R. to be trafficked by their own fathers or husbands – the very people they depend on for protection and safety. One out of every five girls in the D.R. is a victim of sexual violence before she reaches the age of fifteen.*
Local governments provide few rights and little protection for women who are exploited. When victims do come forward, they face very real risks of violent retaliation from their abusers. Femicide – the killing of women or girls by a man on account of her gender – is currently the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age in the D.R.*
Real Women with Real Stories
Beyond all of these facts and statistics are real women with real stories of betrayal, trauma, devastation, and yes… hope. Our Larimar Stone Bracelet was inspired and created by women who are breaking free from human trafficking and domestic abuse in the Dominican Republic.
Beyond the safe housing, opportunities for artistic expression, fair wages, healthcare, and other benefits she and other survivors are receiving as fair-trade Artisans, they’re getting legal assistance to prosecute their abusers and counseling to help them recover from the trauma they’ve experienced. They’re experiencing the liberating power of forgiveness and reclaiming their lives.
These women are as unique and precious as the volcanic stones they craft into jewelry.
Both the stones and these women have been transformed by stories created by violent beginnings and ending in rare beauty.
One of these young women inspired a community to create a way for survivors of sex trafficking and domestic abuse to take a stand against these injustices.
Sold by her parents to a 58-year-old man when she was eleven years old, by the time she was eighteen, she was the mother of four children. Yet, she’s finding hope, healing, and joy as an Artisan.
“My life was very bad before I became an Artisan. I was sexually abused my entire childhood by my father and was sold at 11 years old to a man I did not love. Now at 21 years old, I’m free, I’m happy and my life has changed. My four beautiful children will be the first generation in my family to grow up in a safe home without poverty, violence, sexual abuse or trafficking. Your purchase makes that possible.”
– Yocasta, Artisan in the DR
Through fashion as a force for good, women are breaking free from the power and pain of sex trafficking and domestic abuse in the D.R. Through supporting local Artisans in the D.R. by purchasing their handcrafted products, you and I can help empower survivors with the financial independence they need to create new lives of freedom for themselves and their children.
Real Choices Make a Real Impact
Every piece of Trades of Hope jewelry from the D.R. has a name, face, and story behind it. Every story is a story of survival, healing, and hope for a victim of human trafficking or domestic abuse. Knowing this changes the way we view fashion. It changes the way we think when we put on jewelry every morning.
It makes us question ourselves, “Does this piece of jewelry do that? Does it change lives? Does it give survivors of sex trafficking and domestic abuse the power to break free and find hope?”
If not, why not?