The Common Good

Fashion as a Social Justice Vehicle, Part 2

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Continued from part 1 of an interview with Shannon Hopkins of Sweet Notions and Alissa Moore of Nomi Network.

How did you get involved in ministries aimed at helping those involved in sex trafficking?

SHANNON: In early 2004 Si Johnston and I were talking about the struggle to engage young adults in mission and also doing work that was seen as valid to the people we were trying to reach in emerging churches. As we talked it felt like we need to do something around an issue. At the time I had never heard of the term human trafficking ... it wasn't in the media at all. As Si, who had just returned from Asia, told me about trafficking I was in disbelief. So I did a bit of research and then we held a mini conference to learn about the issue. Throughout the conference it became clear that the gap was demand. If we can stop demand we can stop supply. And the western world is creating and driving this market. The campaign we developed was The Truth Isn't Sexy and it was very successful. We did the campaign on 5k and massive volunteer effort. We innovated good practice for addressing demand, impacted culture, and changed legislation. However, we were exhausted and broke from having put so much into the campaign and choosing to do it on a shoestring. We need new work and innovative strategies to deal with issues in society today (trafficking being one of those issues) but it felt like the next step was to start an income generating enterprise that could help fund new initiatives and at the same time make a difference.

As we went through a reflection and evaluation period, Jessica and I began talking about what happens to the women once they are rescued, and felt like we would like to do something that offered women some of the opportunities that they have not had access to. Creativity can be so therapeutic and is also very empowering. It also is becoming clearer and clearer to me that our consumer choices, demand, impact most of the injustices in the world. One fourth of the people trafficked today are trafficked into bonded labor, you don't have to look very hard to realize that it is children trafficked to pick cheap cotton or teenagers in factories to produce cheap goods for a western market.

What were the signs that it was time to close down the Truth is Not Sexy Campaign?

SHANNON: From the beginning with TTIS, we lived into the fact that it was a campaign. We wanted to put demand on the radar, impact culture and legislation. We did that and so it was time to close it down and move on. Plus we did the entire campaign on 5k and volunteer efforts; Sweet Notions was born in part out of the realization that we need seed money to create initiatives like TTIS. The new Web site is live but now we are in growth mode with Sweet Notions. We need boutiques, churches, and other enterprises to help us with collection events (our current campaign is "Bag Up Your Bling") and to host boutique events. In addition to that we are working hard to launch the design camps.

And Alissa, how did you get involved with this cause?

ALISSA MOORE: In 2006 I attended Urbana, an incredible college conference that takes place every three years hosted by InterVarsity, and learned about the global tragedy of human trafficking for the first time. Several months later I met the co-founder of Nomi Network, Diana Mao, who also had a heart for this issue and had recently completed micro financing research in Cambodia where she encountered this tragedy first hand. We started to develop a business plan based on selling luxury products in the States to create stable economic opportunities for women in Cambodia coming out of sexual slavery. We returned to Cambodia together to more fully assess the needs of the organizations we hoped to work with and discovered a distinct need for product development and empowerment programs for the women. We started to revise our approach in order to create a network that could allow these organizations to do their work in a more effective and profitable way.

Briefly describe the Nomi Network's "Buy Her Bag, Not Her Body" campaign.

ALISSA: The "Buy Her Bag Not Her Body"

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