By Jennifer Taylor
Many organizations currently produce fair-trade clothing, accessories, coffee, and other products, but Nicole Krajewski didn’t know any that focused on clothing for special events. With her background in fashion design and a friend who owns a bridal shop, Krajewski created The Daughters Project to fill a hole in the market and to rescue girls from forced slavery.
“We connected with the Center for Global Impact here in Indianapolis, which works with small businesses that want to make a difference in social and humanitarian issues,” she says. “After our first visit to Cambodia with CGI, we realized our vision for the project could become a reality.”
During that visit, she met two 14-year-old girls. One was considering a return to prostitution and the other would soon leave for Malaysia where her parents had sold her into slavery.
“Her father signed the agreement believing she would become a ‘domestic servant,’” Krajewski says. “But we discovered this organization often sells the girls to brothels instead of giving them good employment. We reported the group to International Justice Mission and bought the girl out of her contract.”
These two girls became the first students in the project, which today includes a residential program, training in sewing and handwork, and preparation for independent next steps.
“We hired two Cambodian seamstresses to live there and work full-time teaching the girls the trade,” Krajewski says. “But we’re not just teaching them to sew, we’re teaching them to create formal dresses for which there is a huge market in the U.S. When they graduate, they will leave with the skills to be self-sufficient.”
Last year The Daughters Project sold 40 prom dresses, and already this year the total is up to 60. All the proceeds are used to fund the project in Cambodia, and the team hopes to produce enough gowns in future years to sell them wholesale to other shops.