In Bolivia, prostitution and sex trafficking are endemic. In 2 of the country’s major cities, La Paz and El Alto, it’s estimated that there are 13,000 registered sex workers. Many women are forced or tricked into the sex trade, and because few other jobs are available, they have no option to leave. Joining an artisan cooperative provides a stable environment where women are paid a fair wage doing dignified work. There, they can begin to rebuild their lives.
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After leaving the harrowing sex trade, women in Bolivia work side by side in a sisterhood as they transform upcycled leather and suede into high-end bags and accessories.
Many of the artisans we work with in Bolivia have been rescued from sex trafficking. For this reason, their identities and names are kept confidential.
One woman, anxious to earn money, listened when her friend told her she could just go into prostitution until she could pay off her debts.
“That was a huge lie,” she said. She found herself sucked into a world she couldn’t escape. “As much as I tried to get out and get out I couldn’t.”
The woman’s world transformed when she joined an artisan cooperative. She learned marketable skills and was able to earn a sustainable income. Her self-worth blossomed. And most importantly, she found a community of women who had escaped the same turbulent world she had experienced.
“It’s my family.” She says of the co-op. “It’s my people. It’s my life.”