Giving a purpose to young women

Human trafficking earns profits of roughly $150 billion globally. And, while only 19% of victims are trafficked for sex, it accounts for 66% of global profits. Vulnerable women that are forced into sexual exploitation, through trafficking, are valued at around $100,000 each, which is six times more than the average for a trafficking labour victim.

These appalling statistics underpin what is a growing sexual slave trade through trafficking, and how vulnerable women are reduced to numbers and profits by violent predators.

There is some good news however. There are some businesses that are actively fighting against the trafficking industry, such as PURPOSE, taking in rescued women and girls, as well as escapees. I spoke to Michelle Bridgeman, of PURPOSE, to find out more.

Q. How was PURPOSE born?

PURPOSE is the social enterprise of the nonprofit, International Sanctuary. The mission of International Sanctuary is to empower girls and women  escaping human trafficking to embrace their true identity and worth.

PURPOSE Jewelry is all handcrafted by these women and the proceeds of the jewelry go to International Sanctuary.  International Sanctuary not only offers employment, but also education, health care and community for young women escaping human trafficking.

In the photo: The PURPOSE model, helping to fight trafficking Credit: PURPOSE

Q. What is most important for you in your work? What inspires you?

Definitely the most important thing for me in my work is always going back to our mission, and not getting caught up in the day-to-day tasks that can get me overwhelmed or stressed.

Our two Founders, Stephanie Pollaro and Wendy Dailey, have such a heart to serve these women, and that remains our sole focus.

On a larger scale, International Sanctuary is looking to expand to ten different sanctuaries by the year 2020 and already has sanctuaries in India, Uganda, and Mexico.

In the photo: One of PURPOSE’S female jewelry artisans Credit: PURPOSE

Q. How do you balance the social aspects?

Our community within each sanctuary is incredibly healthy. The community aspect is actually one of our four core program components which allows for true empowerment.

Community happens within a sanctuary through the women spending time together, sharing their stories, throwing parties and holiday functions, and attending workshops created to garner a healing, workplace community. The women also spend time together outside of work, and some even live together.

Q. What are the main challenges PURPOSE is faced with? How do you overcome these challenges?

One major challenge that we face is maintaining the right balance between our program and our social enterprise, meaning that the women are our workforce but are also the individuals we are serving through our nonprofit.

We would never want the women to feel like we are imposing too much work on them by demanding they meet certain production goals, but we are also heavily sustained through our jewelry sales, and in order to grow as an organization and be able to open additional locations we need to grow our sales.

We have also faced the challenge of sourcing materials and deciding whether or not to do this at a global level now that we are expanding to different locations around the world.

In the photo: Women connecting, making relationships Credit: PURPOSE

Q. How do you intend to improve women’s conditions through PURPOSE in the future?

We want to offer additional programming within the organization to empower these women to set goals in order to get jobs other than producing jewelry, where they are able to develop a career and do things they are passionate about. We are also working on creating advancement opportunities within the organization, for our women to be able to move up into managerial or trainer roles, or to increase their artistry skills though advanced jewelry-making.

Editors Note: The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

About the Author /

Born in Paris, and after spending 18 months in Spain, Pierre is now discovering Roma. Transmission and Communication as values to the way of global usefulness. He's currently studying a BBA at the South Champagne Business School (SCBS), France. Fan of music, he is a real detective of art treasures.

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