Lesson 1: Stringing the Pearls!
This November, FAIR Girls welcomed the fourth class of girl survivors of human trafficking to join our Ugandan therapeutic art and income general project, JewelGirls. Just like the three classes before them, there will lots of laughter, beads dropping to the ground, paper and glue everywhere, and friendships made. If you stood at the window of the small classroom where the girls gather twice a week in our Kampala space, you would just think that these girls are just like any other girls. And, in many ways, they are just that. However, beneath the surface of their smiles is a unifying identity each binds the girls together: they are all survivors of sex trafficking and labor exploitation.
In Uganda, there are thousands of young girls, some as young as five, who are sold into domestic servitude where they are essentially house slaves. Many are sexually abused while being enslaved, and when they are older are forced onto the streets where they are lured into a life of sex trafficking. FAIR Girls has supported more than 200 young survivors by offering them a safe space to overcome their past and begin to think about a future where they are safe and free.
In spring 2009, FAIR Girls team traveled to Kampala to educate orphaned and street involved girls about how to stay safe from trafficking. Along the way, our young staff member, Eve, uncovered a trafficking network run by a man who was exploiting young girls under the pretense of offering a shelter. When Eve called me in the middle of the night to tell me that she was danger and needed our help to rescue these girls, I knew that we would be staying in Kampala for a long time. Soon after, we partnered with a small Ugandan youth shelter where we could offer these traumatized girls a safe space to share their stories and began to think about their futures. At first, the girls were very scared to talk, but soon they realized that they could trust us. The stories of sexual abuse, losing parents to AIDS, being forced to work as domestic slaves, not being allowed to go to school, and being sold for sex on the streets all started to come out. The first workshops were very heart wrenching, but we could feel the silence being broken.
In Uganda, paper beading is a popular jewelry craft, and we thought the girls would enjoy the therapeutic process of rolling the colorful tiny strips of paper into “pearls.” We were so right! It was super messy, but the necklaces were beautiful and represented the growing hope and confidence each girl gained as she came to our workshops week after week. They were creating necklaces in every shape and color, which showed their true creativity and talent.
Now, four years later, FAIR Girls is excited to invite a new group of girls to join our program. In addition to our amazing workshop leader, Regina, we also employee two young women survivors of human trafficking as our workshop leaders. Aldrine and Jane help not only in leading the jewelry making workshops, but also in helping the girls get access to social services. And, by being survivors of trafficking themselves, they can assure the new girls that they are not alone and will also overcome the abuse that they have experienced.
FAIR Girls is really excited to be a part of this month’s Girl Effect Challenge, where we are competing to raise the highest number of individual donations! Our hope is that if we do win one if the 6 open spots, we will be able to help finance our new class of 55 Ugandan JewelGirls. I’d love for you to take a look at our new project, “55 Ugandan Girls Survive Trafficking & Earn Income,” because we could really use your help in winning and spreading the word! Past winners have received up to $30,000 each in funds from Girl Effect – which would almost entirely fund FAIR Girls’ Ugandan JewelGirls program for one year, helping 55 girls escape situations of labor and sex trafficking.
Thank you so much for your support of FAIR Girls. We could not do our work without you, and I know that you have many worthy causes to choose to donate to, so it means a lot to me that you have given us your trust and support.
Thank you so much, and enjoy visiting our exciting new project!
Andrea (and Regina, Aldrine, and Jane!)
Lesson 2: Trying on your pearls :)
Jane teaches the new girls (and 1 boy!!)