The Tote Project: Urban style accessories that help victims of human trafficking

www.thetoteproject.com

The reality behind the horrors of human trafficking became apparent to Michelle Chavez after she attended a screening for a documentary film called “Call + Response”; which focuses on the subject of international slavery of the 21st century. Her best friend, Fay Grant, gained an interest in the movement against human trafficking, after dealing with her own traumatic events, which inspired her to make a change in the world. Together, they took their passion towards the neoabolition movement and created a company to provide reparation to victims around the world by providing cute, hand (and yet inspiring) accessories.

The Tote Project was created by Chavez and Grant

www.thetoteproject.com

in hopes of empowering and creating “restoration for freedom” to those who have been affected by modern day slavery. They assist victims and raise awareness by selling urban designed tote bags and pouches, and donate 10% of the profits to “Two Wings” non-profit organization (one in which assists victims of sex trafficking in the United States). The accessories are designed with a very urban/sketched out print that you would see displayed in almost anyone’s home, or on apparel. The totes and pouches are suitable for any person to carry

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and flaunt! They are created with canvas fabric with a simple shape of a casual pouch or bag! The artwork is also complemented by a suitable message regarding the cause the purchase of these bags support. Every text says “Free to…” with a verbal phrase added at the end whether it be fly, dream, bloom etc. The message simply implies the overall goal advocates for human trafficking victims have for the people they are assisting. Those should not feel “caged” or trapped physically or mentally, and rather so “Free to “ do anything their heart desires without anyone holding them down.

One of the biggest issues in the world is indeed the human trafficking epidemic. Yes, it is an epidemic… and sadly the issue is often overlooked. Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery where people profit from the control and exploitation of others or otherwise explained when traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control other people for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex or forcing them to provide labor services against their will. According to the International Labor Organization, there are about 4.5 million people “trapped in forced sexual exploitation globally” Over 80% of those forced into trafficking are exploited sexually and the rest forced into bonded labor; 50% of these victims are children. With the silence regarding this issue, a project similar to what Chaves and Grant have created, are merely important in order to create awareness and rehabilitate those affected by it.

Chaves and Grant are not only assisting victims with the profits made from the bags sold, but also by employing several women who have escaped the human traffic industry in India.

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According to reuters.com, as of 2016 almost 20,000 Indian women and children are subject to human trafficking which was a 25% increase from 2015 stats. With India being a nation greatly impacted by this epidemic, it only made sense to Chaves and Grant to assist those who needed work and help in rebuilding their lives by stationing their production headquarters in India.

These two women have created such a clever and overall win/win type of system in order to gain support from the public. While they are receiving donations which help further their cause, you receive a well-made, inspiring and quite “fashionable” accessory that one would be proud and excited to flaunt around town. While their brand is still very new, Chaves and Grant leave their supporters with the statement:  “We believe that if we #HoldOnToHope, we can empower survivors of human trafficking worldwide, provide them with opportunities to thrive, and help them to recognize their worth and potential”. These two women have certainly created a hope for the future of their brand and the end of human trafficking.The Tote Projects’ products range from $20-$30 with many different designs

and artworks to choose from. So go get yours now and use the hashtag #HoldOnToHope when you show off your sweet new bag on Facebook or Instagram, as you will be helping a person whose voice needs to be heard.

But act fast, these bags sell quick! #HoldOnToHope

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Ellie Cook

Intern

Residing in Salt Lake City, UT, Ellie Cook is a full-time student at the University of Utah. She is studying communications with an emphasis in journalism and Psychology.

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