Founder of Elegantees since 2010, a women's clothing company that designs fashionable & modest clothing with the goal of profits going to sex trafficking rescue efforts
Worked as a production manager for a company that manufactures garments for private labels
B.A from the Fashion Institute of Technology, NY with an Assoc. Degree in Fashion Design
Married to Israel
Fashion with a Purpose
HUMAN ISSUE – SEX TRAFFICKING IN NEPAL
According to the U.N., human trafficking generates billions of dollars annually (some statistics report 32 billion). The International Justice Mission and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report human trafficking is tied with the illegal arms industry as the second largest criminal industry in the world today after the drug trade. It is also the fastest growing. The U.N. estimates that 56% of trafficked people are from Asia and the Pacific, and between 700,000 and 4 million women and children are trafficked annually.
Nepal is one of the top regions where women and children are trafficked for sex. In this country, women are often regarded as second class citizens. Poor families will sometimes sell their daughters to traffickers on purpose because they cannot feed another person. Organizers in rural areas, brokers and even family members sell girls. Husbands may sell their unwanted wives. Sometimes victims are promised employment and a better life elsewhere only to be abused. Once sexually exploited, victims are abandoned and disowned by their families. When these ladies are rescued, they are considered “broken eggs” and cannot return to their families.
Leading Indian columnist Soma Wadhwa cites in the article For Sale: Childhood trafficking in women and girls is easy along the 1,740 mile-long open border between India and Nepal. It is less risky than smuggling narcotics and electronic equipment into India. The traffickers transport large groups of girls at a time without the hassle of paperwork or threats of police checks. The procurer-pimp-police network makes the process even smoother. Purchased for as little as 1,000 Nepalese Rupees (NPR) (current rate about $12 USD), girls have been known to fetch 30,000 NPRs (about $348 USD) or more in later transactions. Police are paid by brothel owners to ignore the situation. Girls may not leave the brothels until they have repaid their debt, at which time they are sick with HIV and/or tuberculosis and other sexually transmitted diseases, and often have children of their own. The areas used by traffickers to procure women and girls are the isolated districts of Sindhupalchow, Makwanpur, Dhading and Khavre, Nepal where the population is largely illiterate. Statistics from Amnesty International show that more than 9,000 girls are trafficked each year from Nepal and Bangladesh into bondage in India and Pakistan, often with the acquiescence or cooperation of state officials.
THE NEPALI RESCUE PROJECT
To help with the fight against sex trafficking in Nepal, four years ago, The Nepali Rescue Project began. It started as a partnership between Run Ministries, an international non-profit mission organization, and a Nepali non-government organization (NGO). Now four years later, the project is now a collaborative effort with many organizations, churches, and individuals working together to rescue an average of 20,000 girls every year. Together, they have established twelve border stations at Nepal and India that provide monitoring and counseling ready to spot and stop traffickers leaving Nepal with their unsuspecting victims. The Nepali Rescue Project also provides residential safe houses, emotional & spiritual restoration, rehabilitation, awareness, literacy programs, job skills training, and micro-enterprise development. These services help these Nepali women and girls find dignity and hope and rebuild their lives.
Regent University students’ efforts for The Nepali Rescue Project began as a SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) project. SIFE was dedicated to providing entrepreneurial opportunities to empower women in Nepal who have been rescued from human trafficking.
FIGHTING SEX TRAFFICKING WITH FASHION
In 2011, the Regent University SIFE group was connected to an up and coming fashion designer, Katie Martinez. She shared the passion to help rescue victims of human trafficking. Katie had first learned about the cause in one of her classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T). She knew she wanted to make modest clothing and glorify God. Katie also had the desire to create a great product and help financially with human trafficking. This began her dream of one day having her own clothing company to accomplish all of this. After graduating from F.I.T., Katie worked three years in New York City’s Garment District as a production manager for a company that manufactures clothing for private labels. In 2010, one of Katie’s dreams came true. She started her own clothing company, Elegantees. Elegantees started with Katie’s dream to give rescued women sewing jobs. It seemed impossible for it to happen so quickly because the company was launched with only $10,000, and connections just to NYC factories. Word of mouth got around. One day about a year later in 2011, she received an e-mail from one of the Regent students with SIFE and The Nepali Rescue Project. The student told her that a man in Nepal had been rescuing women from trafficking for over 20 years and was longing to give these women jobs to fully restore them. The amazing part was that he was hoping to give them specifically sewing jobs, and had already starting training them. Katie says it was a miracle. Since then, she has worked with The Nepali Rescue project and the collaboration is flourishing.
Katie grew up on a farm in Iowa. Since grade school she wanted to be an artist. As the years passed, she developed her skills. At 16, she accepted Jesus as her Savior. She also decided she wanted to be a fashion designer. Though she became a Christian, she did not become more modest with her clothing. As a teenager and young adult, she dressed in a way that gave her the sense of approval she desperately longed for. However, it wasn’t satisfying, and she was only attracting men whose eyes went straight to her body. Throughout the year she saw modest girls around her were being pursued by quality men desiring marriage. It took some time but Katie learned that modesty is not just the way you dress, but a way of life. Traits that are on the same side of modesty are kindness, confidence, assurance, joy, peace, love, contentment, and gentleness. She incorporated what she learned about modesty into her fashion designs and it is a high priority. Katie’s vision is to design styles that enhance the inner beauty of a woman.
Although Regent’s SIFE project with The Nepali Rescue Project has ended, some Regent students continue to help with Katie’s fashion shows. The following ladies will be featured in the Elegantees fashion show: Jenner Cotton, Gwenna Hendrickson Kristen Schuman, Leah Coleman, Kathryn Gross, Sarah Beth Stone, Namie Bimba, Emmy Sych, and Jean-Marie Chaney.
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