Changing the influences of a teenage girl is a monumental task - they love horrible brands like Shein, Forever 21, and Pink - companies that don’t hold themselves accountable for how their clothes are made and what materials they use in the production process. Plus, the clothes are generally less expensive, which fits into their budgets. So how do we bring awareness and start the discussion on why it’s important to be selective about clothing choices?
First, we started with awareness - letting the girls know that human trafficking is a huge problem in our society, and it impacts women and girls their age. We gave them examples such as the Love 146 story, where young girls were sold to brothels and became nothing but a number for men to select. It turns out that giving them specific examples is more impactful than just talking about the problem with generalizations. Honestly, these girls are so sheltered and removed from what goes on in the world (which is probably fine until they hit a certain age), but at the same time they’re more connected than we ever were; also a scary thought.
We also educated them on sweatshops and child labor with more examples from reports on the companies they revered so much using unfair/usafe and inhumane labor practices. Then, we linked this to the fashion industry, with sweatshops being the obvious connection. Also, how families and single parents had to sell their children because their jobs didn’t produce enough income to be able to take care of the entire household. We explained that’s why we work with companies like ABLE who make sure the people (mostly women) who make their clothes, handbags,jewelry, and shoes, are paid fairly to break the poverty cycle.
Next we taught them the value of checking into the company they want to shop at. Asking questions to find out where the clothes are made, and what they’re made from. Looking at the tags or researching it online, and knowing what fabrics are not the best for the environment, like polyester. Yes, this seems pretty labor intensive for teenage girls who like instant gratification when it comes to clothing. Sometimes we do the research for them, in order to help point out which companies have ethical practices and which ones do not. We’re definitely not there yet in terms of changing their shopping habits and preferences, but they are becoming more aware as consumers.
As a note, we spread these conversations out to not overwhelm them and to also make sure they’re hearing these things repeatedly so it sinks in. For example, when the question comes up “Mom, can I order xyz from this company?”, this prompts the dialogue of “Ok, where’s it made and what do you know about that company?” as a starting point. And best case scenario, if this drill wears them down, they won’t even want to buy whatever it is they wanted!
On a more serious note, it also has made them aware of the dangers of human trafficking and social media usage, which we’ll cover in next week’s blog. See you then!