SEATTLE, Washington — In 2002, a gemologist named Wendy Bird sought out loose pearls to make into jewelry. A woman in the Philippines responded to her request and partnered with Bird to begin a jewelry making business. Today, hundreds of women work for Pearls With Purpose, which not only gives them an income but also helps them escape unsafe situations. The jewelry line is helping victims of sex trafficking, abuse and abandonment by providing training, jobs and business loans. This provides women with sources of income, granting them the ability to care for themselves and their families. Here are three countries that have been impacted by Pearls With Purpose.
The Philippines is a country made up of many islands with a population of 106.7 million people. Located in the Pacific Ocean in Southeast Asia, the Philippines hosts many tropical storms and typhoons. The tumultuous climate leaves the country open to a number of economic problems. Because so many people rely on fishing and farming, when extreme weather events take place their supplies are destroyed, causing them to live in impoverished states. Many women are forced into sex work in order make a living and provide for their families.
Pearls With Purpose began in 2002 in Antipolo City, Philippines. Women are given the ability to work from home, where they can take care of their families and set their own schedules. Through the organization’s help, the women are trained in the art of jewelry making and can sell their creations on the company’s website. Most women who are employed come from a background of some form of abuse, or are seeking to find a new source of income and leave sex work. The jewelry line is helping victims who have escaped from sex trafficking by equipping them with the skills to be self-reliant.
The Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic has gained a reputation as being one of the countries with the most sex trafficking in the world. With a population of 10.63 million, the Dominican Republic is located in the Caribbean and has a tropical climate with beautiful beaches. While many tourists come there to vacation, some also try to take advantage of the sex rings. Several clubs in the city of La Romana were raided in 2019 to free dozens of women who had been sold into sex trafficking rings. The country has stepped up its game to try and lose this reputation, and hundreds of victims have been set free.
Pearls With Purpose traveled to the Dominican Republic in 2019 to teach women who were rescued from sex trafficking jewelry making skills so they could become employed by another company or start their own business. There, they coached the women in a jewelry making workshop and provided them with the ability to apply for a small loan if they wanted to open up their own shop. As a result, the jewelry line is helping victims of human trafficking find careers that give them a sense of pride and dignity.
There is an abundance of sex trafficking that happens in Peru, and many women and children are exploited through false employment offers. Peru has a population of 31.99 million and is a popular tourist destination, where some tourists purchase sex from the victims. The victims are frequently kept in remote locations, where it is difficult to escape. Often, Peruvian law enforcement engages in corrupt practices and does not regularly comply with anti-trafficking efforts, which makes the situation that much more dangerous for vulnerable Peruvians.
There are several aftercare facilities in Peru that help treat and council victims rescued from human trafficking. Pearls With Purpose works with Mentors International to teach women in these facilities. They acquire appropriate skills to operate their own businesses and survive successfully in society without falling back into sex trafficking. By teaching the skills to make a craft, the jewelry line is helping victims by recognizing that in order to be fully emancipated from sex trafficking, survivors must gain skills to help them meet their daily needs.
Pearls With Purpose empowers women. Instead of ignoring the large need for assistance, the organization not only offers their support, but gives necessary tools to the survivors to help them move forward from their trauma with success. The organization has spread across several more countries. In doing so, it has provided a wealth of knowledge and a sense of belonging to all women who benefit from it. The jewelry line is helping victims in many ways, and their future can only be brighter with the support and tools Pearls With Purpose provides for them.
– Tawney Smith