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Do you believe that a dress can change the world? In 2013, our partners at Dressember and founder Blythe Hill began with this simple question. Last year, over 4,600 women participated by wearing a dress the entire month of December and telling the story of those in slavery today. Inspiring their friends, family, and communities to join them, Dressember is partnering with organizations like IJM, together making rescue possible and restoring freedom to women, children, and men in slavery around the globe.
Today, we want to introduce you to three women within the IJM movement who’ve inspired us and are participating this month. Below, they’re sharing why they joined Dressember, how they’re bringing others alongside them, and tips for integrating Dressember into a busy life.
Meet Joy, Jocelyn, and Heather…
To start, tell us a little about you.
Joy: My name is Joy. I’m a California girl and one of nine children. My parents raised all of us to stand up for what we believed and that has always been a guiding point in my life. I’m married to a wonderful man named Josh, who I met in high school. We live in Southern California doing ministry in our community.
Jocelyn: I’m Jocelyn… a wife, mother, daughter, and advocate. I am free. [Fun fact: Jocelyn leads our Church Mobilization efforts along the West coast!]
Heather: My name is Heather and I live in Austin, TX with my husband and two daughters. I am an adjunct professor, teach design, and I’m a communications/media freelancer for a nonprofit. I direct Compassion Ministries at our church. I love reading, crafting, traveling, the great outdoors and time with friends and family.
What compelled you to join Dressember this year?
Joy: This is my third year participating in Dressember. It has become clear to me that my passion is to ensure that every human can live free from oppression and violence. Blythe Hill, who began Dressember, is such an amazing person with a heart for seeing an end to slavery. I couldn’t not jump back in this year.
Jocelyn: Cassie, one of our IJM clients who has become a survivor-advocate. When we met, Cassie told me she feels strong when she tells her story-- her story of deception, abuse, and exploitation. I witnessed her share her story to over 1,000 people and she asked us if we were willing to “fight, fight, fight!” I will find any way to fight with and for Cassie, and the men, women and children like her.
Heather: I want to create a better, safer world for my girls to grow up in and explore. This year, I was able to spend time with refugees in Athens and attend the IJM Advocacy Summit. These experiences impacted me. I was able to learn how I can use my voice to impact those in power, and see first-hand the needs of those being oppressed.
What does this campaign mean to you?
Joy: It’s not just wearing a dress and posting on social media. It’s bringing freedom around the world to those who are suffering. My hope is that everyone will find a way to become engaged in the global fight against slavery.
Jocelyn: For me, it means choosing to take the time and energy to invite a few friends to join me in the fight to end slavery by wearing a dress. I hope they will see Dressember as an unexpected gift they will continue to open each day and know that what they are doing matters to those who are waiting for the abuse to stop.
Heather: It means making a difference by doing what I can where I am. It’s stepping out of my comfort zone by having to take a picture of myself everyday (I prefer to be behind the scenes). Ultimately, my goal is to raise $2000 this year!
How do you integrate Dressember into your day-to-day?
Joy: Aside from wearing a dress, I have a goal of telling at least one person about Dressember each day this month. It may be the barista at Starbucks or a stranger in the grocery store. I want to let people know what the problem is and how they can help be a part of the solution. I’ve found inspiration and ideas from others participating in the campaign.
Jocelyn: Each day I wear a dress and accessories purchased through fair trade companies like Elegantees, Purpose Jewelry, and Noonday. I find that I have multiple unexpected opportunities to share Dressember through the day (why am I wearing the same dress the whole week? who made the jewelry and accessories?). My Dressember team and I encourage one another with our daily social media posts.
Heather: You don’t have to own a ton of dresses (or bow ties) to participate. I usually wear about the same 5-8 dresses just in different ways. I’ve learned to get dressed as soon as I can; because I work from home, it can be easy for me to stay in yoga pants. When I put on my dress, I’m more conscious. I think about the impact, where I’ll take my photo to share the message with others, and the day ahead.
What encouragement would you give to others who may be considering jumping into the campaign?
Joy: Your voice matters! If you search for them, there will always be reasons not to join Dressember, but the goal of the campaign is to bring an end to the oppression of the poor. That’s the best reason of all.
Jocelyn: When you know something like slavery exists, don’t choose to do nothing. Simply take the next step -- and this is a great one to take. You will enter into a movement of strong, brave, and bold women who are willing to use their influence, their skills and their wardrobe, to bring about freedom.
Heather: Do it in community as part of a team (start one or join a team)! It becomes a place for you to exchange ideas and encourage each other. I would encourage you to be patient. Some individuals raise money quickly at the start, but for many of us, it comes more slowly (fun fact: most of my fundraising comes in the last week and a half of December!).