January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and Michele Rickett, founder and president of Roswell-based organization She Is Safe, said she has seen the impact of ordinary people raising awareness and funds to help people around the world create new lives in freedom.
“I think it helps for each of us set our sights on setting slaves free,” she said.
She Is Safe works around the world to both free and empower women who are in abusive and exploitative situations.
Rickett found out about modern day human trafficking and slavery when she and her family lived in east Africa in the mid-80s. She said her two daughters were young at the time and she was shocked to see girls their age forced to become domestic laborers or be sold into marriage.
“It was not uncommon to see a 12-year-old girl be sold for a couple goats to a man three times her age,” she said.
“Nothing I had read gave me a hint about this.”
When they came back to the United States, Rickett made it a priority to let people know what was happening to women around the world. Since then, she has co-authored two books on the matter.
The first, “Daughters of Hope,” tells the stories of women who have been valiant in transcending abusive situations.
The second book, “Forgotten Girls: Stories of Hope and Courage,” focuses on the abuse of young girls issue by issue and then presents practical ideas for solutions.
Rickett said one way people can get involved is through their advocacy program.
“We probably have about 500 advocates nationwide,” she said.
Advocates have “village gatherings” where they invite people to their homes and talk about modern-day slavery, shop for jewelry from Refugee Beads and focus on one high-risk country for awareness and fundraising.
The money raised goes toward helping the women start some kind of livelihood they can grow in and be proud of.
“We have practical ways for women and girls to work towards a new life,” Rickett said.
“We want them to feel like they are building a new life of dignity with their own hands.”