Alissa White-Gluz: Human trafficking is a global issue and I feel it deserves global attention”

Arch Enemy vocalist Alissa White-Gluz writes about the horrors of human trafficking and what we can do to help combat it.

Women have come a long way in the last few generations. We sometimes forget the courage and tenacity of our mothers and grandmothers while (deservedly) celebrating that of our sisters. International Women’s Day allows us the opportunity to really applaud and thank the influential women of the past, present and to learn about how women live in cultures different than our own, like a global sisterhood. 

Growing up I heard stories from my grandmother of her escape from concentration camps with her sisters, only to return on horseback to destroy the railroad tracks being used to deport others to their deaths. It sounded like a scene from an action movie to my teenage self and I couldn’t imagine living through that at my age, as they did. 

I can’t help but be curious about how my life in 2019 could not possibly have taken the same path a few decades ago. Now, given the amazing opportunity to travel the world as I do, I’ve also become aware of how different a woman’s life can be not only across time, but across the world. It’s fascinating and humbling. 

In honour of International Women’s Day 2019 I’ve chosen to diverge a bit from celebrating my sisters in the music business (whom I continue to celebrate and appreciate daily) and instead work on creating a global awareness about the human trafficking epidemic with a special focus on women in India. 

The subject of human trafficking is a very complex issue that continues to grow and shape-shift with technology ever weakening the divide between predators and victims. The THORN Foundation, for example, is committed to creating and employing technology to protect children from being sex-trafficked. In India, trafficking occurs because families don’t have the money to feed, clothe and educate their children. Social media creates the illusion that everyone lives in the same social environment and, I feel, causes a false familiarity that breeds apathy. But, the same way the internet has amplified the risk and danger to vulnerable persons, we can use our residency in this global village to stop it. It is a global issue and I feel it deserves global attention. 

In the past decade, there have been over half a million reported cases of women and girls being trafficked in West Bengal. Some women there do not know their birthdays nor where they are… some don’t even know their own names. But, every one of them says, We can work and we want to work’ — a statement of strength and determination reminiscent of our game-changing foremothers. Similarly to an article and interview I wrote about The Empowerment Plan which is a Detroit-based initiative to employ homeless women with the long term goal of helping them re-establish independent living, I am now partnering with Secret Projects, an organization that runs a Prevention Through Production Programme. By giving women the opportunity to report to work every day we empower them to take control of their lives rather than being ruled by desperation. The ultimate goal with Secret Projects is to teach vulnerable women and girls in West Bengal valuable job skills and provide opportunities to work, make money and support themselves and their families to prevent them from falling into human trafficking. Amazingly, the equivalent of only $25 a month (2000 rupees) is enough to protect these women — and they earn it all themselves by creating and selling the Secret Saris. 

So, whether you give your mom an extra-long hug, tell your sister or daughter how much you appreciate her, treat your wife to her favourite dinner or just go all out on self-care, we can all take International Women’s Day as a simple reminder to value women. 

The She Rocks Secret Sari Dress Campaign will drive sales of Secret Sari Dresses made by a group of dressmakers from West Bengal India. The dressmakers have been involved in, or are vulnerable to, human trafficking. Through production they can earn enough money each month to reduce their risks of being trafficked. For everyone 100 Secret Sari Dresses sold, five more makers are welcomed to join the Prevention Through Production Programme. Buy a Secret Sari Dress at | Pledge your support | Follow the campaign @secretsaridress on Instagram

Posted on March 8th 2019, 5:00p.m.
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