Why Milk & Honey Market?
I'll be the first to admit, until last year, I was pretty clueless when it came to fair trade items and ethical consumerism. 5 years ago, my heart was set on fire for fighting the social injustice of human trafficking. I was angry, sad, and struggled with the fact that in today's world, there are more people in slavery than ever before. Across the world, people are forced to work and are not compensated for their hard labor. Children do not have access to education, but are instead working in factories that are unsafe. Women are forced to have sex with multiple men on a daily basis and have zero say about what they do, where they go, when they eat. Then in our backyard, the United States, individuals are being coerced, forced, tricked into selling/offering their bodies for other's pleasure. Sometimes, it is as bold & brash as sex trafficking rings and kidnapping of runaways; but oftentimes it's sneaky and subtle; teenagers being "recruited" on social media by pimps disguised as love interests, or a woman feeling stuck in the cycle of exotic dancing or prostitution because she feels she has no other options.
You're probably fuming and simultaneously squirming right now, which I get. It's confusing and strange to feel angered, but also super uncomfortable at the same time. The more I learned and researched, the more the anger and uncomfortableness subsided. Justice took their place. I know justice isn't technically an emotion, but since 2012, I have considered it an emotion, because it's the only way I can describe how I feel. Justice as an emotion, for me wraps up all of these things: sadness, anger, confusion, hopelessness, disgust, the urge to fight back, the urge to talk, the urge to do something. That's where I felt stuck for so long- stuck in that emotion of justice, unsure of how to make it an action, a verb. The Lord let me sit in that for awhile. He allowed for me to meet people, experience internships, talk, research, ask questions, feel the weight of some hard and heavy topics. Then, one night He gave me a dream- a dream about fair trade. I had a little knowledge of fair trade, but was completely unsure about how that applied to fighting human trafficking, until I began to research. I quickly learned that fair trade brands & cooperatives had a huge impact on fighting human trafficking. These fair trade brands were creating dignified jobs in impoverished areas of the world where human trafficking is incredibly common. Human trafficking and cyclical poverty can very easily and very often go hand in hand. In countries where women are seen as worthless and are not given an education or taught a skill, these organizations were creating opportunity. They were equipping women with local supplies and teaching them skills such as sewing clothes, making jewelry, hand-cutting leather for beautiful bags, the list goes on.
I'll never forget reading a blog of a brand we now partner with, because it pushed me over the edge of, "Do I do this? This is crazy". They shared a story of one of the women they employ in Uganda and how because of her job with them, she was able to open her first bank account and start her own business. Tears streamed down my face as my privilege slapped me in the face. How much have I taken for granted these things? Things like having enough money to open a bank account, or never having to wonder where my next meal was going to come from. I dried my tears and immediately pitched the store to my husband. We talked for weeks, researched, asked questions, and prayed. The idea of pulling all of these beautiful, different brands together onto one platform started to keep me up at night- in the best possible way. We formed Milk & Honey Market as an LLC in January of 2017 and got to work- you can read more about the name at our About page. I had no idea what I was doing (some days I still feel that way, but by God's generosity, Milk & Honey Market has been open for a month and nothing has burned down!!) but my excitement moved me forward. We started to put together the building blocks of a small business.
The more brands we began to partner with and learn from, the more questions that were asked, and the more steps forward we took- the more I knew this was what God wanted us to do. I had no idea how much my purchase effected people around the world. ABLE recently reported that the fashion industry employs over 60 million people worldwide, making it the third largest industry in the world. The brands we partner and work with are going into that industry and creating jobs that are safe and sustainable. This means when the artisans go to work, they are walking into a safe building that is up to code and well ventilated- things that are the "norm" in America, things we don't have to worry or think about. It means they are guaranteed a job that will allow them to provide for their families. Our prayer for Milk & Honey Market is that we can continue to grow and partner with more brands around the world and create an even larger demand for fair trade fashion. We hope to be a part of the demand for hiring more artisans and increasing work. We strive daily to be a part of fighting the cycle of generational poverty and human trafficking. We also have big dreams for local impact with women coming out of oppressive situations in Upstate South Carolina- more dialogue surrounding that to come later.
I know it gets repetitive seeing it on social media and written on notes in your packages, but I truly am so grateful for how many people have already partnered with us in creating opportunity across the globe. It's so much more than a beautiful handmade necklace or a cute pair of earrings. It's dignified jobs, it's individuals being paid what they deserve and should be paid, it's creating more jobs for artisan's sisters, children, neighbors. It's a world-wide movement of opportunity and a big step in the fight against human trafficking. I'm thrilled to keep stepping forward and creating opportunity across the globe with you.