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The Freedom Boutique

Three years ago, my neighbor was kidnapped. Eight days later, police found her in Oakland. She had been sex-trafficked. Sacramento is one of the top worst offenders in the nation for sex-trafficking. What’s worse is how this hideous crime is so prevalent right next door to some of the richest people in the state.

My vision has always been to use my creative passions to combat injustice. One of these passions is fashion. I have always dreamed of starting a fair-trade fashion line that is comparable to the mainstream women's fashions today. I envision a Freedom Boutique that employs victims of sex-trafficking and prostitution, teaches them business skills and practices that will eventually help them integrate back into society as self-sufficient, independent citizens.

So far, girls and women have a safe haven away from the brothels from which they escaped. Places like the Courage House in Sacramento provide a home where girls can recover from the heinous crimes committed against them. But after leaving the safe houses, these women need to find their own way to make a living.

A major problem for anyone who has been a convict or a victim of a convict is that, when released from their restricted environment and cast back into society, there is no support system to help them regain solid ground. Women and girls are demeaned and demoralized from the experience, many face drug addictions from working in the brothels, many become dependent on the work just for a place to stay at night, and even if they do escape, many cannot get jobs. In fact, many prostitutes are arrested. So the victim often ends up in prison and the perpetrators, the customers and the pimps, continue to victimize women and girls. As a result, these women cannot find work after being released from prison because they have a criminal record, and they end up back in prison or in the brothels because at least in these places, they had a roof over their heads and food to eat—sometimes.

The Freedom Boutique would be a fair trade fashion line that acts as a gateway from safe houses to society. Women would learn businesses skills while working as seamstresses, tailors and retailers making apparel for the boutiques. They would be paid fair wages, work the days at the boutiques’ production centers, and spend the nights at safe houses like the Courage House until they make enough money to buy a home. Alongside becoming self-sufficient, I would hope that mothers would make enough money to send their children to school. Education is power and any child deserves to have the same opportunity to get an education no matter their upbringing. Education will also keep these children from turning the same revolving door their mothers went through. As a society, we need to look for the roots of our social issues, not just cover them up. And why not fight modern-day slavery with style in a nation that has a fashion fetish?

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