Parkway alumna helps victims of sex trafficking

Parkway+alumna+helps+victims+of+sex+trafficking

President Barack Obama, alongside the White House staff, initiated sex trafficking awareness in the first ever White House Forum to Combat Human Trafficking, April 9, 2013. In his speech at the Clinton Global Initiative, Obama stated that modern sex slavery will be eliminated by building awareness among all populations, and ultimately educating the public on the issue.

In efforts to spread awareness on the on-going issue, Parkway West graduate Dawn Manske created her own clothing line, Made For Freedom.

“Made For Freedom is a cause-oriented business that works to offer job skills, fair wages and a better quality of life to women who have been oppressed through sex trafficking while raising awareness by selling globally inspired apparel,” Manske said.

After Manske viewed an undercover report in Cambodia detailing the sale of a female child to a foreigner for $10, she was compelled to fight back.

“The 10 years I spent living in China prior to seeing the video from this undercover investigation helped me to understand that when people value girls less than boys, it creates an imbalance and exposed me to poverty levels I had never seen before. Nothing I encountered in my travels, however, prepared me to watch a video exposing the darkest facets of the Cambodian sex trade,” Manske said. “Watching this mini-documentary in 2007 was my introduction to learning about sex trafficking. I was overwhelmed by the depravity and scope of the issue. As I continued to learn about trafficking over the next several years, I desperately wanted to see this horror and injustice come to an end, yet I had no idea what could be done from my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.”

I was overwhelmed by the depravity and scope of the issue. As I continued to learn about trafficking over the next several years, I desperately wanted to see this horror and injustice come to an end, yet I had no idea what could be done from my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri,”

— Dawn Manske, Made for Freedom CEO

With her passion to help fight sex trafficking, Manske created a clothing line, inspired by a pair of her favorite pants.

“It seems strange to say that realizing my dream to help rescue and restore trafficked people started with a pair of pants, but it’s true. The idea of starting Made for Freedom arose as I received an enormous number of compliments from complete strangers about the super-comfortable fisherman pants I had purchased in Thailand,” Manske said. “After more compliments from strangers than I could count about the pants, I began thinking about starting a business. Realizing I had three to four jobs and had just gotten married, I pushed it out of my mind.”

Soon after, Manske was invited to a two week long research trip to India in order to learn about the systems that need to be in place to bring restoration to the lives of sex trafficking victims. While on the trip, the team visited a safe house where female victims were starting the restoration process.

“All of the children appeared to have adapted to life in the safe house in spite of the pain they had endured – all except one, a 15-year-old I will call Ashna. A social worker informed us that Ashna had been taken from her family, likely by way of a promised job in the big city, only to be sold into slavery at a brothel. Typically, when girls are sold to brothels, they go through a “seasoning” process, which often involves drugging, raping and beating a girl until she has no will to fight her way out of her situation. As it turned out, the day we visited was the day Ashna found out that, despite her newfound freedom, her family did not want her back,” Manske said. “Stories like these and others compelled me to pledge, ‘If there is any way I can help girls like this by selling pants, I will sell pants’.”

Her pledge marked the beginning of her Made For Freedom clothing line. Manske sells what is referred to as ‘Creabeli’ products, taken from CREating A BEautiful LIfe. The line includes Creabeli pants, styled after fisherman pants, four different styles of Creabeli t-shirts and Creabeli crossbody bags. Not only are her products creating awareness, but they are also directly helping sex trafficking victims.

“Twenty percent of our net profit goes to organizations that provide life skills and job training. The most important part of the business is that our products are made by marginalized women and survivors. This gives them safe, fair wage, dignified jobs which they haven’t had and desperately need. The most important thing that we do is invest in people’s future,” Manske said. “Providing a meal or clothing for people in desperate situations is good but can be short-lived. Providing the skills that they need to be able to buy their own food and support their families for the rest of their lives is more sustainable.”

The initial orders of Creabeli pants are manufactured by survivors of trafficking at New Life Center in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
The initial orders of Creabeli pants are manufactured by survivors of trafficking at New Life Center in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Manske hopes for people to educate themselves in what sex trafficking really is, and help put a stop to the injustice.

“Many times when we think about sex trafficking, we think of the movie Taken or impoverished women in other countries. Sex trafficking has nothing to do with transporting someone; it ​involves​ anyone making money ​off of ​someone else ​performing sexual activities,” Manske said. “​The average age of a girl getting lured into​ prostitution in the US is 13, so it is essential that young ladies are aware of what they can do to keep themselves out of vulnerable situations. They need to understand some of the tactics used by procurers to find potential victims. They also need to know the importance of keeping an eye out for each other. Also, young men need to understand how they can be part of the solution and how they can take a stand against sexual exploitation of girls and women.​”

Anyone interested in spreading awareness by purchasing Made For Freedom apparel should visit madeforfreedom.com.