There are more people enslaved today than during the 18th and 19th century, said Laura Egle, founder of Eternal Threads, who spoke to students at John Brown University on Monday night.
“Trafficking is not a moral issue, it’s a poverty issue,” said Egle.
Eternal Threads is a non-profit organization based in Abilene, Texas, which teaches practical skills to women and children in high risk areas in 13 different countries, including Nepal, Bulgaria, Mongolia and Afghanistan.
Egle was invited to speak at the University by Students Against Sex Slavery, a Christian Ambassadors United for Service and Evangelism ministry (CAUSE). This CAUSE ministry mainly focuses on domestic slavery that takes place in Ark., though Egle came to talk about worldwide slavery.
Eternal Threads operates under Egle’s philosophy: “Help people help themselves.” Rather than just giving women money or supplies to survive, Eternal Threads gives them the ability to sustain themselves. Through Eternal Threads’ six-month tailoring program, girls master professional tailoring and basic reading and writing skills. They are also given a sewing machine and a small loan when they complete the tailoring course so they can go back to their own villages prepared to start a small business.
Egle shared the story of a young woman from Nepal who had been rescued at the border of India. After completing the tailoring program, she returned to her village and became a leader in the community.
“No woman in the village has ever done what she has done,” Egle said, recounting what the woman’s brother told organization leaders.
Egle thinks it is important to address a certain attitude that many people have towards women in the sex trade. She says there is a somewhat popular and disheartening opinion that girls involved in the sex trade and prostitution choose to live that life. In actuality, most women involved in prostitution are forced, deceived, or are acting out of extreme desperation.
“No child dreams of being a prostitute,” Egle said.
Egle explained that many victims come from small rural villages with no knowledge of the dangers of sex traffickers. Traffickers will go stay in a village and befriend its people, while picking out vulnerable targets. They specifically look for girls who have had a hard home life or that have been sexually abused. They offer the girls a job in the city and sometimes even an education.
“These girls have no idea what’s going to happen to them,” Egle said.
The next event Students Against Sex Slavery will be putting on is Rape Awareness Week, set for Nov. 17-20. They will be presenting at chapel and partnering with International Justice Mission during Rape Awareness Week, Gay said.
“Even though [rape victims] are not physically being sold we really feel that being violated in the biggest way you can be violated is really kind of emotionally enslaving and if you look at the aftermath of that, everything from drug addictions to relationships, it is kind of the first step to enslaving,” said Gay.
Students Against Sex Slavery has two goals for Rape Awareness Week. They want students to understand that students actually have been raped, and they want victims to feel more comfortable in sharing their experiences and stories.
“We feel like JBU is kind of a dark place for that because we really don’t talk about that kind of stuff,” Gay said. She also said there is an assumption that there is no problem at the University because it is a Christian campus.
To learn more about what Eternal Threads, check out their website, www.eternalthreads.org.