At Starfish Project, we help exploited women do three things: experience freedom, establish independence, and develop careers. Today we want to share more about what it means for exploited women to establish independence.
We want every woman who goes through our program to be able to make choices about her own life. The women at Starfish Project have been controlled by their traffickers, their family members, their boyfriends, or their friends. Establishing independence means they have the resources and skills they need to live on their own. Starfish Project offers several programs to make sure every woman establishes independence for her life beyond Starfish Project.
Literacy and math are key components of independence. When a woman arrives at Starfish Project, she may not be able to read or write in her own language. Many of our women did not stay in school past second grade, because their families thought that educating girls was a waste of resources. It is incredible to watch an adult woman learn to read for the first time! Math class is another critical step to establishing independence. Can you imagine how you could go grocery shopping, take public transportation, or pay bills if you could not read or did not have basic math skills?
After their time working in a brothel, many of our women have very complicated health issues. In the brothels, they have not had a normal sleeping schedule in months or years. They have often been forced to terminate multiple pregnancies, experienced difficult miscarriages, or faced a host of other health issues. We offer full medical insurance and doctor visits so women can heal physically. The women attend cooking classes and health classes so they can take care of their bodies.
Parenting classes are one of the most fun parts of our program. So many of our women have children, but they do not have a great family model to imitate. Oftentimes they are breaking a generational cycle of abuse and trauma in their families. Our women (and our staff!) get to attend parenting classes and learn how to love their children well through each stage of childhood. The kids are so cute, and it is a joy to see the women become such wonderful mothers.
Once a woman has lived in the stability of our shelter for a few months or years, she can get a housing stipend and get her own apartment near the Starfish Project office. We purposefully located our office in a neighborhood with affordable housing so that the women have an attainable place to live outside the shelter. When they get a housing stipend, they learn how to manage their own household often for the first time.
Of course, establishing independence means financial independence as well. Every woman at Starfish Project works at our jewelry social enterprise so they can provide for themselves and their families. When you order Starfish Project jewelry, you are part of their journey to establishing independence.