For the first time, UW-Madison women are participating in Dressember, an international movement to raise money for the 30 million women, men and children currently trapped in modern-day slavery.
Open up your closets women. This is a cause you can’t ignore. To honor Dressember and to support women in human trafficking and sexual exploitation, women around the world are wearing a dress each day of December. Dressember hopes to spread awareness and restore dignity to women.
UW-Madison Senior Katie Unger, a member of UW’s student organization Force for Freedom, brought Dressember to campus, with a starting goal of $500. Currently, not even a third of the way through the month, the 17 women participating at UW have already raised $458 dollars. With all of Dressember’s current success, Unger plans on doubling her starting goal.
100 percent of the money raised goes to the International Justice Mission, which works to rescue victims of human trafficking, to bring justice to criminals, and to help survivors of violence to rebuild their lives. IJM performs rescue missions in brothels and other areas that trap victims. Each rescue mission costs about $4,500, and so far, Dressember has internationally raised enough money for 27 missions – each of which saves many victims – this month alone.
Dressember uses fashion to advocate for women trapped in sex slavery and to celebrate the freedom of being able to wear dresses in order to restore dignity to women. Something as simple as slipping into a dress is making a big change around the world.
Wearing a dress is not the easiest thing to do in the middle of a Wisconsin winter, but that makes the action all the more powerful. It generates more conversation. Besides, wearing a dress in winter is a small discomfort compared to those imprisoned in slavery every day.
The women participating in Dressember on campus also wear “Ask me about Dressember” pins to raise awarenss for the cause in the Madison area. They hope to open up a discussion for the problem that is affecting millions.
Human trafficking and sex slavery is not just a problem in third world countries. There are more than 17,000 people being trafficked in the United States. Trafficking harms people around the world and close to home, and we need to take a stand to do something about it.
“I’m a big believer that the small things make a big difference. I don’t think that we have to be famous or rich in order to make an impact on the world. I think we can be where we are right now and who we are right now and do something small with a lot of love and have a big impact. This is about women advocating for other women who have the right to a dignified life,” Unger said.
Men can get involved too, and they don’t have to wear a dress to do it. Men can support women participating in Dressember by spreading the word about the cause. On campus, men have been posting images of themselves holding signs that say “Real Men Don’t Buy Women” on social media.
Unger stresses that everyone can help make a difference throughout Dressember by raising awareness and donating to the cause. Women can still participate, even if they are starting late. We can all spread the word of Dressember on social media, using the hashtags #dressember and #itsbiggerthanadress to help spread awareness.
“I want people to know that there are women being exploited around the world, and that we can do something about it,” Unger said. “Dressember is one way that we can help. It’s a big problem, but it’s not hopeless. There are women being rescued, and women being restored,”
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Pictures provided by: Katie Unger