Women of Worth is an annual event hosted each spring and will be held this year on April 25. The first Women of Worth was held in April 2013. Dana Wallace, Women’s Ministry director at LifeSpring Baptist Church in Chattanooga, serves as the coordinator of this event. Being made aware of the reality of human trafficking and exploitation, Mrs. Wallace began searching for ways to educate other women, connect individuals to groups and organizations that are invested daily in the fight against trafficking, and provide opportunities for involvement, both internationally and locally.
In 2013, the event was planned by a group of women from LifeSpring Baptist Church (formerly Maranatha Baptist Church), but attendees were from a variety of church affiliations, as well as some with no church affiliation. The 2014 Women of Worth is also being primarily planned by LifeSpring women, but there will be involvement from some others who are not members of LifeSpring.
The group of women who planned the first Women of Worth chose the name because of a deep conviction and belief that every woman’s life is of infinite worth. Whether a woman is a stay-at-home mom, a corporate executive, a college student, or a prostitute, she matters; she is of worth, said officials. So, the event was planned to accomplish two objectives.
1) To provide a nice, fun-filled evening for the women of Chattanooga to express appreciation for the worth of the role they play in society and the asset they are to the community at large.
2) To inform women in Chattanooga about other women of worth: women enslaved through human trafficking or victims of exploitation. Education will be offered about these women who desire freedom from that lifestyle. Counter-trafficking organizations will be highlighted throughout the evening and funds raised at the event will be directed to them.
Approximately 100 people attended the first Women of Worth in 2013. Attendance for 2014 is projected to be approximately 250. The event is open for any women in the Chattanooga area, not just for the female members of LifeSpring.
Women of Worth 2014 will be held at the Brainerd Crossroads (the BX) in “The Crossing.” Pre-event activities will include M.E.R.CY Jewelry sales, sales of products from New Hope Girls, photo opportunities at the Women of Worth step and repeat, hors d’oeuvres, a coffee bar, and a silent auction to benefit Second Life of Chattanooga. During the actual event, dinner will be served, and there will be live jazz musical entertainment. The program will include Jerry Redman, managing senior partner of Second Life of Chattanooga and Allison Hale, director of Women’s Ministries for DR Vision. After the event, attendees may pay for and pick up their silent auction items, return to purchase M.E.R.CY Jewelry and products from New Hope Girls, and take more photos at the step and repeat.
General Human Trafficking Statistics/Information
• Every year, an estimated 293,000 children are at risk for sexual exploitation in the United States. (www.secondlifechattanooga.org)
• In Tennessee, the latest statewide data suggests 19 girls under 18 are commercially sexually exploited on a typical weekend night via Internet classified websites and escort services. (The Schapiro Group, “Adolescent Girls in the Tennessee Sex Trade,” August 2012) and (www.secondlifechattanooga.org)
• An average slave in the American South in 1850 cost the equivalent of $40,000 in today’s money; today a slave costs an average of $90. (Free the Slaves)
• Human trafficking is the third largest international criminal business, grossing an estimated 32 billion USD each year. (UN Office on Drugs and Crime)
• Trafficking occurs in 161 of the 195 countries. Of the modern-day slaves, an estimated 70 percent are women and up to 50% are children. (CNN Freedom Project)
• Between 14,500-17,500 new slaves are brought into the United States every year across international borders. (US Department of State)
• It is estimated that 21 percent of all forced labor in the global sex industry is comprised of children. (International Labor Organization)
• “We worked six days a week and twelve hours a day. We mostly had to serve 32-35 clients a day…If anyone refused to be with a customer, we were beaten. If we adamantly refused, the pimps would show us a lesson by raping us.” (“Maria,” 17-year-old sex trafficking survivor, Polaris Project)
About the Dominican Safe House
Allison Hale is the director of Women’s Ministries for DR Vision, located in San Pedro de Macorís, Dominican Republic. As she has talked to many women who are prostitutes there, she has found that many of them were trafficked as children. Finding themselves responsible to care for a family without having an education or training in any particular skill, except one, these women are supporting their families by returning to the streets. DR Vision has opened a safe house in San Pedro de Macorís for women who desire freedom from life in the sex industry.
Women with drug addictions may live in the safe house, while those who do not have an addiction come to the workshop every day. Through the safe house, Mrs. Hale makes sure that these women have their basic needs met, helps ensure that their children receive an education, and gives them training in skills to support their families.
A dress rental shop that also does alterations is part of the sustainable business of the safe house. These rehabilitated prostitutes are employed there, and taught about sewing and
alteration. The clothing items they make are called “Garments of Praise.” Others who come to the safe house are given training in doing manicures and pedicures, so that they may work in the safe house’s salon, “New Creations.” Another avenue of training is in jewelry making. Women in the workshop are taught how to make jewelry, called “M.E.R.CY Jewelry.” (M.E.R. stands for mujeres en riesgo, which means ‘women at risk.’) This jewelry is sold at events, parties, and online.
After the tragedy of trafficking occurs, the safe house in San Pedro de Macorís is there to help with rehabilitation and training, offering support and spiritual guidance along the way. This safe house is one of the organizations highlighted at Women of Worth, and M.E.R.CY Jewelry may be purchased at the event.
About New Hope Girls, Inc.
The following is from the “About Us” page on the New Hope Girls, Inc. website.
“Girls living in poverty are uniquely capable of creating a better future. But when a girl reaches adolescence, she comes to a crossroads…When given access to quality education, health care and a support system the trajectory of her life can be forever changed. By the age of ten, girls living in poverty have reached an age that the price of a bad choice is too high to make a mistake...We long to hold the hands of their parents so that their girls will not be sold to the highest bidder.”
“New Hope Girls, Inc. offers an academy for girls living in poverty in the barrio; girls who are at risk of being sold to brothels or into another form of sex trafficking. They provide a quality academic education, as well as spiritual development and training in life skills. In addition, a workshop has been established for the mothers of these girls or other women in the barrio. Women can be employed at the workshop, hand-sewing sandals and purses.”
Before the tragedy of trafficking occurs, New Hope Girls is there to help prevent it, offering education, healthcare, support, and training in life skills. New Hope Girls, Inc. will be highlighted at Women of Worth 2014, and their products may be purchased at the event.
About Second Life of Chattanooga
Second Life of Chattanooga is part of the Greater Chattanooga Coalition Against Human Trafficking. One of their objectives is to create awareness about the issue of human trafficking. In addition, Second Life of Chattanooga desires to work with organizations and individuals to see human trafficking ended in the Greater Chattanooga/Southeast Tennessee region.
The following is information about GCCAHT from Second Life’s website:
Greater Chattanooga Coalition Against Human Trafficking: Second Life of Chattanooga and Partnership for Families, Children & Adults are founding members of the Greater Chattanooga Coalition Against Human Trafficking. Through GCCAHT, area social service providers; mental health providers; medical providers; community and faith-based organizations; and federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies work together to combat sex trafficking in the Greater Chattanooga area.
Our Mission: Empowering individuals and organizations to collaborate and to create a community free of human trafficking and slavery of all forms.
Our Vision: Elimination of all forms of human trafficking.
Our Values: Human dignity and justice for all.
* Raise overall awareness about the issue of human trafficking.
* Facilitate training and equipping of first responders to human trafficking.
* Collaborate in the restoration of victims of human trafficking.
Second Life of Chattanooga will be highlighted at Women of Worth 2014. A silent auction will be held to raise funds for them, and their managing senior partner will be speaking during the program to raise awareness among those in attendance. Opportunities for involvement will also be presented.