There is a vast expanse we can see from the lenses in our eyes out into interstellar space. There is also a vast expanse from the iris, inward, through the stardust coursing through our veins and into our imagination. Both ways of seeing carry us to the far reaches of the universe. Both visions are critical and lead us to new frontiers. Both journeys of the heart help us keep our place in the world in perspective with a longing for connection. The issues women experience around the violence of poverty and trafficking hold both of these visions as well. They are universal and timeless to be sure, but the deepest scars from such violence are borne in the hollow of the heart.
Statistics, like the two below, paint a picture of the vast web of pain these injustices inflict on our sisters:
At least 20.9 million adults and children are bought and sold worldwide into commercial sexual servitude, forced labor and bonded labor...Women and girls make up 98% of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. Source
Since 2007, the National Human Trafficking hotline, operated by Polaris, has received reports of 14,588 sex trafficking cases inside the US. Source
Because this is a universal issue experienced by individuals, the Thistle Farms community has to be both universal and particular in its response. As the largest social enterprise run by survivors in the US, this community has an opportunity to respond with a powerful vision to see how we can help connect survivors globally, so women feel connected and know healing is possible from the inside out. As we commit to this vision with renewed vigor and bold faith, Thistle Farms Global will work as a community of support, shared learning, and product development. Partners will help each other grow in order to bring the next women into employment and safe recovery. As long as we remain undaunted by the task of uniting women through shared trade and global ecommerce, we can help small communities of women find their path to economic freedom. And just as importantly, help them start the interior work of healing that is just as vast and powerful.
This global healing and economic justice work has taken me to search the meaning of vision again. When I stand in geranium fields in Rwanda or hold the child of a sister working in Ecuador, I remember when Thistle Farms had no vision of a global network. But as we grew in our reach and vision and met powerful leaders doing similar work around the world, we felt that a woman sold anywhere on the planet has the right to know she is a part a community, whose roots are deeper than any injustice she has known.
Freedom lies in being bold, and in that spirit, I know that the work Thistle Farms does has to be global in order to be about love’s deep roots.
At a national convention last summer I was standing next to one of the survivor leaders at Thistle Farms, who is part of the global initiative. We were selling products from the global partners, and people were buying into the hope of what we were selling. In the middle of the second day, she turned to me and said, “I get it. We are helping more and more women find their way home. I’m down with that.”
To learn more about Thistle Farms Global, visit here.
All photos courtesy of the respective global partners.