Student Takes Stand Against Human Trafficking With One Dress Project

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Ohio University sophomore Elizabeth Held wears the same dress she’s worn for ten and a half months: a dark blue, short-sleeved frock with a zipper in front that she accentuates with scarves and other accessories.

This decision was not a fashion choice; Held is taking part in the One Dress Project, a worldwide movement to protest human trafficking, violence against women, female poverty and other conditions plaguing women around the world.

Held stated she heard a woman speak about human trafficking last year at a conference in Indianapolis and decided to take a stand of her own against the issue by participating in the One Dress Project.

“It really motivated me to be involved and do something for myself,” said Held, who has kept a blog about her year wearing the dress. “I loved the One Dress idea because I really love fashion and I love playing with clothes and I thought it was a fun challenge and definitely an interesting campaign idea.”

Held explained she doesn’t wear the dress when she sleeps or works out, and she washes it once a week and hangs it up every night to avoid wrinkles and dust collection.

However, she said she has had some problems with rips.

“It has been sown a couple times but it’s been harder because it keeps tearing again and again,” Held said.

Ohio University Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies Patty Stokes said that Ohio is one of the top states for human trafficking in the country.

However, she acknowledged that the problem takes place worldwide.

“The division between coercion and choice can sometimes be hard to entangle,” Stokes said. “People migrate voluntarily, then find out the deal they were offered isn’t quite what they expected when they arrive in this new country.”

In America, Stokes explained, young women forced into prostitution were often runaways first, finding themselves unable to make ends meet any other way or falling into the trap of abuse.

She stated sex slavery is not the only kind of trafficking that remains a problem around the world.

Domestic service and agricultural slavery make up a large part of the trafficking market.

“Any kind of human slavery is wrong and this is just one particularly obvious odious variant of it,” Stokes said. “But it’s not the only one that’s out there.”

As of yesterday, Held stated she had 40 days and 15 hours left to wear her dress.

But she explained that she’s happy with her choice.

“For me, a dress kind of represents femininity in a woman,” Held said.