University students in the UREC and LSU Women’s Center may notice two tall cardboard containers filled with bras. That is what the spearheaders for the Free the Girls bra collection drive, hope to see happen.
Biology junior and President of the Gamma Pi chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Brooklyn Gillette and advisor and Educational Leadership & Research Ph.D. student Sydney Epps are collecting bras for the nonprofit Free The Girls.
Free The Girls is dedicated to providing sex trafficking survivors with a safe path to “economic freedom, restored health, social well-being, education and opportunity for a different, hopeful future,” according to the group’s website. The organization currently collaborates with groups in El Salvador, Mozambique and Uganda to help victims of third-world sex trafficking.
Free The Girls will give donated bras to survivors who will make a living safely through selling them secondhand. Free The Girls began in 2011 and in the last seven years has collected more than 600,000 bras.
The Sigma Gamma Rho bra drive was started on Jan. 22 and the group plans to keep it running until mid-March. So far, they have two bra boxes in action: one at the UREC and another in the LSU Women’s Center. The organizers have reached out to many University organizations, and plan to add at least two more boxes, possibly in the Student Union and in Middleton Library.
Gillette narrowed down why they chose to do a bra collection rather than something more conventional to one simple reason:
“A lot of people don’t have extra money to donate, but they do have old bras,” Gillette said.
Epps said unlike many other campaigns, this is a cause that women of all political backgrounds could come together to support. She added that bras are something easy to give, and something that helps immensely with rehabilitation of victims of sex trafficking, giving them a stable job and income.
While donations have been trickling in, they are trying to expand the project campuswide, possibly to other sororities and athletic organizations. Though they haven’t gotten much response, they remain hopeful that sororities could be the motherload they’re looking for.
“Even if we could have just a meeting date where they just like throw their bras from the second floor to the first floor at us, that would be a joyous occasion,” Epps said.
January was declared National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month by U.S. President Donald Trump. The Human Trafficking Hotline received 13,897 calls in 2017. In the same year, 4,460 cases of human trafficking were reported in the U.S. This number is significantly down from 7,621 in 2016, and is the lowest number of cases since 2012, according to the hotline.
Of the 4,460 cases reported in 2017, 3,186 were sex trafficking, 3,698 involved women and 1,438 involved minors. Fifty-nine cases of sex trafficking were reported in Louisiana, 19th among U.S. states, according to the hotline’s end of the year report.