Linda Wiens, Communicator for WMCEC, wrote the following report on the Spring Enrichment Day held on April 18, 2015. The theme was Helping Vulnerable Women. Note: The names of the women
in the photos I received were not noted.
As I sit in comfort in my modest, air conditioned home on this very hot day (28°C) in Ontario, I am reminded that I am truly blessed. Today I’m thinking about the ladies living in Nepal (also 28°C…hmmm) that the Women of MCEC learned about at the Spring Enrichment Day in April. They too have the same soaring temperatures and humidity that we have, with perhaps crying babies to nurse, other children to feed, possibly a husband, and yes, some of these women need to work outside the home just like us. Here’s the difference: some work in the sex trade by choice, chance or even slavery. It was very difficult for us (WMCEC) to hear stories of some of the more than 10,000 women and young girls who line up daily to sell their bodies. Imagine being 13 years old, kidnapped, then forced into prostitution. Suppose you were so poor that your own mother sold you so the rest of the family could eat.
Some of the lucky ones have gotten out of that cycle of poverty and servitude through the efforts of a visionary couple who created a self-sustaining company called FREESET. They started it in 2001 in the “most infamous sex district in Kolkata, India.” The sole purpose of this company is to set women free (and their families by extension). Initially, 20 brave women seized the opportunity to get out of the sex trade, and learned new skills: sewing, cutting, creating quality and marketable products such as handbags. Consider their joy in finding employment that offers dignity, safety, fair wages and even a health plan! Things that we feel entitled to and take for granted.
WMCEC members also heard about a company called, ELEGANTEES, based in New York City. According to their mission statement they exist “to provide hope to victims of sex trafficking through providing sewing work. A positive source of income that reinforces independence, a healthy self-image, and confidence restoring lives one elegant tee at a time.” Their design centre team worked with local NYC survivors teaching sewing for 2 years, but due to unforeseen difficulties needed to be suspended. The company hopes to open a retail store where more structure and a simpler training process can be established. In the meantime, the company is involved with The Nepali Rescue Project that finds and returns over 20,000 victims of trafficking each year. Elegantees employ some of these women at their Nepal sewing centre, thereby providing them with a much brighter future.
Spring Enrichment Day attendees enjoyed a fashion show featuring the FREESET handbags, ELEGANTEES fashions, and HOPE’S GATE JEWELRY. Although information was provided about all 3 companies, further data is available through websites. All proceeds from purchases went to support the vulnerable women that these companies provide assistance to.
Sadly, Canada is not immune to marginalizing or exploiting vulnerable women. Abuse comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s right in our homes. If you are looking for tools to provide personal healing, responding effectively to the needs of others, recognizing and celebrating God’s grace in your life while regaining lost confidence, then consider attending a Canadian version of Sister Care. See MCEC’s website and link to WMCEC for details.
Lastly, I was impressed once again with MCC Ontario. Do you know about TOOLS? I didn’t. The acronym stands for: TORONTO ONTARIO OPPORTUNITIES FOR LEARNING & SERVICE. Their mission statement is to respond to poverty by walking along side marginalized people with compassion and caring. Did I mention how proud I am to be a Mennonite? And a Woman of MCEC. ~ Linda Wiens