Don’t dress to oppress

Modern day slavery ends in the closet


Lilly Gorman

Dressember is a challenge of wearing a dress or tie for all of december, and is a conversation starter to educate communities about modern slavery and an opportunity to fundraise. The Sidekick Staff Writer Charlotte Vanyo wears a dress every day of December to raise money to prevent human trafficking.

Charlotte Vanyo, Staff Writer

My mission in life is to make a difference – even a small one. Because of this, I try to be politically active in any way a 16-year-old can. I can often be found at town halls, rallies and marches.

Many people laugh at my activism and ask, “Does she really think she’s making a difference?” In a certain way, they may be right. Individually, I may not be making a difference. However, when people all over the world unite in small actions, such as attending a rally or wearing a dress, it does make a difference.

Last month, I joined thousands of advocates from around the world in Dressember: the challenge of wearing a dress or tie for all of December. The dressy attire serves as a conversation starter to educate communities about modern slavery and an opportunity to fundraise.

Slavery comes in many different forms. Sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery that forces both children and adults to engage in sexual acts against their will using violence, threats, lies, debt bondage and other forms of coercion. As of 2016, there are an estimated 15.4 million people living in forced marriage slavery around the world.

The global commercial sex trade is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Approximately 30 million people are enslaved in the world, and 70 percent are women.

It is crazy that enslavement is so common and so many are unaware of it. Even the people who know about the modern day slave trade assume it is not happening anywhere near them, which could not be further from the truth.

Slavery exists in every city around the world; it is not some far off problem of a different country, of different people. Just last year, a Southlake couple was found to have kept a young girl as a slave for the past 16 years. The girl was brought to Texas from a West African village, abused and kept from attending school.

The money Dressember raises goes toward trial fees, education, therapy, case management and rescue operations for survivors of slavery. The organization is partnered with International Justice Mission, the world’s largest anti-trafficking organization, A21, whose efforts go towards educating people in poorer parts of the world about safety and McMahon / Ryan Child Advocacy Center in Syracuse, N.Y..

Shriya Vanparia
Dressember raises awareness about human trafficking. The Sidekick staff writer Charlotte Vanyo wore a dress daily for Dressember 2018 and raised more than $450 for this cause she is passionate about. Graphic by Shriya Vanparia.

Eighty-eight percent of Dressember funds go towards victims, seven percent go to fundraising and five percent go to Dressember administration for salaries, operations and supplies.

It is time for change, peace, prosperity and equality for all. As Michelle Obama once said, “Don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have, because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”

Participating in Dressember was definitely a journey for me. Both my knowledge on human trafficking and my gratitude grew so much over the month. No matter how cold I was, I knew my suffering was nothing compared to the millions of people enslaved around the world.

In 2019, we should no longer be afraid of such an outrageous injustice. No one should be scared to go to the grocery store alone at night or have to check the back of their car for an intruder before getting in. The time to end human trafficking is now. As Ronald Reagan beautifully asked, “If not us, who? If not now, when?”

I have raised $452 through my Dressember campaign – which is more than enough to cover trial fees for four survivors to testify against their abuser and seek justice.

If you would like to join me in the fight against human trafficking, donations are open until the end of January.