Polished Pearl Aids the Victims of Human Trafficking
Photography provided by Polished Pearl
Each and every pearl is one of a kind, yet unlike diamonds a gentle polish will bring out a pearl’s unique beauty. The same is true for women victimized by the human trafficking industry.
To Polished Pearl, a freedom business dedicated to anti-human trafficking efforts, every life is a pearl; valuable, unique and rare. The director, Nicole Robyn says, “The idea is that every life has value and is beautiful. You gently polish a pearl. The goal is to take something that is already beautiful, already rare, already one-of-a-kind and add a little polish.”
“India hosts one of the five largest red-light districts in the world. It’s estimated that 14 million people are ensnared in the human trafficking industry of India. The average age of girls that enter the sex industry, many times sold by their own parents, is 10. These girls have nothing,” Robyn says, “and the [anti-women culture] itself feeds the trafficking.”
The women of India have little rights and are viewed as a burden to society. This anti-woman culture feeds the trafficking. “These gorgeous women,” Robyn says, “don’t believe they are unique and have worth, they are told they are nothing by people who sell them and by men who abuse them.”
Started with prayer and a life-changing trip to India, Polished Pearl predominately helps women in India recover from sex trafficking by providing fair employment via a “freedom business” that creates and sells high-end fashion accessories. Freedom businesses are not handouts void of responsibility on the part of the recipient. Robyn says, “We are not just handing people a fish over and over and over again. If there is not a solution involved, how are these people going to live and sustain themselves?” In other words, a long-term, not a short-lived, solution is needed; “a business not to just fund, but to give opportunities to women.”
India is known for being unique, especially when it comes to women’s clothing. Although there are 614 million women in India, each sari, an outer garment worn by most Indian women, is unique in color and pattern, beading and embroidery, material and fit. Robyn understood it was crucial to create a business that reflected this uniqueness in Indian style. She says, “We’re not trying to give girls skills they couldn’t use in their own country. We needed something that works; beading, embroidery and silk were an obvious reality in India. They are gorgeous and fantastic.”
India is rich in color. As Robyn points out, “Even the garbage trucks are painted with beautiful colors.” The reality of human trafficking, customized saris and brilliant colors inspired the business plan of Polished Pearl. Robyn says, “Everything that was stirring in our hearts involved trafficking and business, so we brought them together.
“There are some wonderful organizations [in the anti-trafficking realm], but they didn’t have the business aspect.” Robyn discovered that without a sustainable solution, a high percentage of women who escaped human trafficking are pulled back into it because they couldn’t get employed elsewhere. “Most of them come out of poverty,” she says, “and now they have been trafficked to add to it. So who is going to hire them? They don’t want that life, but they don’t know what a different life would look like.” A vicious cycle that needs a break in rhythm.
In step with pearls and saris, every accessory is custom-made and uniquely beautiful. In addition to the significance the work gives the Indian women, Robyn says, “We wanted to produce something for our client that was meaningful to them. We call it a “meaning filled” purchase, a product that not only has meaning because it was made by a survivor on the other side of the ocean, but also is meaningful to the person that wears that piece. So we customize all of our pieces for that reason.
“We try in all of our products to have some aspect of ‘unique to you’ effect. We wanted that to be the experience for both the girls we work with and the women who buy the product.”
The passion for uniquely beautiful products and beautifully unique women is the reason Polished Pearl exists. “We want women in India and women who purchase products to both feel beautiful and meaningful.”
Polished Pearl even has a bridal line of accessories. Since a wedding day is a customized experience, what better way to accent this day than with one-of-a-kind bridal accessories? Robyn says, “On your wedding day you should choose pieces that are meaningful to you. Your wedding day should reflect that uniqueness of you.” Since wedding dresses are not passed down from mother to daughter as often these days, Robyn suggests choosing an accessory that can function as a multi-generational heirloom.
Polished Pearl has also started a preventative employment in Moldova, where the unemployment rate is nearly 50 percent amongst women and an estimated 1/3 of women get pulled into human trafficking. The unemployment and underemployment rate are the fuel for the high rate of human trafficking. The women are often coerced into sex trafficking by a broken promise to receive valid employment. The desperation to work and survive drives the human trafficking industry both in Moldova and India. Robyn says, “One of the main reasons women get trafficked or re-trafficked is because they don’t have another option.”
Polished Pearl hopes to make a significant dent in the human trafficking system. Robyn says, “Regardless of whether it’s one of the women we work with in India or Moldova or a client here we want them to understand they are rare, one of a kind, unique.” By giving the opportunity for an Indian survivor or Moldavian woman to work a fair job, build a bank account, and even receive their identity paperwork, these women gain something of far greater value; a life of beauty and dignity — a polished pearl.
For general inquires email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit polishedpearl.org.