Provo boutique sells bracelet to fight human trafficking

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Apricot Lane, resident boutique at the Riverwoods, is carrying more than trendy jeans this fall. The store began selling 3Strands bracelets last week, a bracelet with a mission to fight sex trafficking worldwide.

[Jamison Metzger]
Each 3Strands bracelet is unique and handmade
Each bracelet and gift box is hand woven by a young woman who has been rescued or escaped human trafficking. They are made from 3 strands of wax-cotton woven cord symbolizing freedom, love and empowerment. Inside there is a single red string braided into the center meant to represent the soul of the woman who made it.

A red seed from the pods of Cambodia’s native Sandalwood trees adorn the top of the bracelet. These seeds are beautiful, fragile and often overlooked as they fall to the ground and are discarded. 3Strands says that they are representative of the girls after they leave the trade. In their culture they are viewed as lesser human beings and this seed that falls from the tree disguised in a crusty brown pod is treated the same way.

The young women spend a total of eight hours, five days a week at their job, but the entire day is not all work. An hour and a half is set aside to spend on their education. Unlike other workplaces in Cambodia, they are not overworked or underpaid and they are able to heal as they create something beautiful. The program is also staffed with a full time teacher, a counselor and a social worker to help the girls when they need it.

Aubry Lybbert is in charge of Apricot Lane’s marketing and social media and was excited to see 3Strands become a part of the store’s merchandise.

“These bracelets are different from other give back brands because they are handmade by the women that benefit from the funds,” Lybbert said.

Tyler Mickelson, a BYU civil engineering student and recently returned missionary served most of his two years in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, and witnessed the destruction of human trafficking first-hand.

“In Phnom Penh there is a really wealthy class that are government officials, people like that, and then there are the majority of the people that are poverty stricken,” Mickelson said. “If they are in perfect health and have an extremely low house payment, then they might be able to scrape by. The poverty is what makes it so easy for them to be tricked or sold into human trafficking.”

Keeping track of the statistics related to human trafficking is an almost impossible task because many women do not report their experiences out of shame and fear.

According to Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), “there are as many as 15,000 prostituted persons in Phnom Penh and up to 35% of them have been smuggled into Cambodia,” from neighboring countries.

Most of these young women were sold to slavery in exchange for an advance given to their parents. They are then forced to work until they pay this advance back but their debt is constantly increasing as they are charged for housing, food, clothing and medical care.

“Outside help coming into Cambodia and training the people is what will help them the most,” Mickelson said. “For years they lived in fear of intellect. They had a dictator that killed his own people for appearing intelligent. That fear hasn’t left their society yet. For human trafficking to end, young women need to know their worth and a lot of that comes through education and work, which is what 3Strands is providing them with.”

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