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WSU club raises awareness about sex trafficking

(Photo Source: Tyler Brown) Thomas Alberts, Avery Pince, Melinda McMillen, and Teddy Steinhorst show off their Red Thread bracelets in the Union Building.
(Photo Source: Tyler Brown) Thomas Alberts, Avery Pince, Melinda McMillen, and Teddy Steinhorst show off their Red Thread bracelets in the Union Building.

Each year, nearly 12,000 victims of sex trafficking cross the open border between Nepal and India. Victims of sex trafficking, the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, are nearly impossible to trace once they pass over the borders of their native country.

To combat this growing criminal enterprise, the Red Thread Movement, partnered with a Nepalese anti-trafficking organization, has put units along the border to rescue these young women and children before they are taken across the border and provides them with safe living and working conditions.

The Red Thread Movement is a mainly student-driven organization, with members in youth groups, colleges and universities throughout the country who sell $3 bracelets, handmade by rescued Nepalese sex-trafficking victims.

Weber State University’s Red Thread chapter comes in at No. 8 of the top 10 overall sellers of the bracelets for the entire organization. WSU students have been selling the red bracelets for three years. Each year, they have raised around $300, which translates to about 25,000 Nepalese rupees.

“We think it’s huge that Weber State students have supported Red Thread enough to make us top 10 in the country,” said Avery Pince, the Red Thread president for WSU.

According to Michelle Paustenbaugh, the women’s studies coordinator and Red Thread adviser for WSU, a large part of WSU’s success with Red Thread can be attributed to Pince’s hard work.

“I think it should be commended that the actions of one student has raised the awareness of many of us,” Paustenbaugh said. “A lot of people don’t think of one person being able to have so much impact, but I look at Avery and I know she has.”

Melinda McMillen, a senior studying athletic therapy, is among the top sellers for Red Thread at WSU. She said she usually picks up some bracelets from Pince and sells them to any of her family, friends and classmates who are willing to buy.

“I’ve even talked with different members of my community about it, and everyone I talk to is really positive and really just wants to help out,” McMillen said.

Red Thread bracelets are available in the Diversity and Unity Center and the WSU Women’s Studies Department, and the club strives to set up a booth in the Shepherd Union Building every other week. All of the money collected from each bracelet goes toward providing fair-trade wage for the Nepalese woman who wove it. Red Thread members believe wearing the bracelets raises awareness for the issue at hand.

“People wonder why you are wearing these bracelets,” Paustenbaugh said. “It raises awareness and it starts a conversation.”

Red Thread Weber State, in partnership with Planned Parenthood and the WSU Anthropology Club, will show the documentary “The Day My God Died” in Room 103 of the Social Science Building at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 7. The documentary is about the lives of young Nepalese girls who are victims of sex trafficking and are rescued.

Paustenbaugh said she encourages students who cannot attend the event to watch the video, which can be accessed via YouTube, on their own time.

“I think we take our everyday lives for granted,” McMillen said. “Any way we can help out really goes a long way to help these people have just some of the freedoms that we take for granted every day.”

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