Runaway Bridesmaids Race to Fight Forced Prostitution
Posted on October 15, 2012, by Holly Corbett, Runaway Bridesmaids
More than five years ago I was working in magazines in New York City. I really loved my job, but also felt the itch that there was more to life than spending 60 hours a week inside a cubicle. So along with two friends, I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and explore the world beyond the office walls. Together the three of us dubbed ourselves The Lost Girls and embarked upon a yearlong, 60,000-mile journey across the globe.
One of our most life-changing trip experiences happened when we volunteered through Village Volunteers at a school in Kenya and worked with pre-teen girls. Some of the girls had been raped on their walk to school. Some had lost one or both parents to AIDS. Some would have had little other choice but prostitution if they could not continue going to school. I wanted to help girls in need have a shot at an education and other opportunities that we were fortunate enough to have simply due to chance and geography. But I had no idea how, as only one woman, I could make a real impact.
Then I read the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, and learned that roughly three million women and girls worldwide are victims of this modern-day slave trade — and many die in their late 20s of AIDS. (In comparison, the peak year of the trans-Atlantic African slave trade was just under 80,000).
I was really inspired when I read about one woman who was making a real difference in the lives of women and girls: Urmi Basu decided to fight back while others stood by. She founded New Light, an organization that gives shelter to the kids of sex workers in India’s largest red light district. She used her savings and grants to build shelters for the kids of sex workers to help prevent another generation of under-age sex workers. It turns out that New Light is a partner of Village Volunteers, the organization that we volunteered with in Kenya.
Urmi’s story reminded me that we can all do something — big or small — to make this world we live in a better place. We can each play a part in shedding light on the darkness — be it poverty, pollution, or — a cause I’m personally passionate about — fighting sex trafficking. So I decided to use one of my passions — running — to raise money to help New Light.
At the starting line: the first Runaway Bridesmaids race in New York City. (Photo courtesy Holly Corbett)
Runaway Bridesmaids was born when my friends and I asked ourselves a question that many women have often pondered: What were we going to do with our old bridesmaid dresses that our married pals swore we could totally wear again?
Rather than let them collect dust in our closets, we decided to prove our bride friends right and zip into them again — except we strapped on running shoes instead of heels to race and raise money to support Urmi and New Light. A group of about 50 men and women joined us for the first ever Runaway Bridesmaids race, a one-mile fun run in New York City on September 22, to raise more than $7,300 to help build another shelter for New Light.
Now, a team of six of us runners are gearing up to do the mother of all races, the ING New York City Marathon, on November 4, 2012. We will be running 26.2 miles in dresses, and collecting pledges to help Urmi build another much-needed shelter for women and girls.
Once people start paying attention, we can begin to solve the problem of this modern-day slave trade. Thanks to people like the Half the Sky Movement team, awareness is spreading.
Running for Urmi in a blaze of tangerine glory. (Photo courtesy Holly Corbett)
How are you going to help make the world a little better today than it was yesterday? One way you can help New Light is by taking a moment to pledge to Runaway Bridesmaids so that together we can begin to break the cycle of sexual slavery. Or follow your own passions and use them to do good, whether it’s taking a volunteer vacation or helping a child through Big Brothers Big Sisters, or baking for a sick neighbor. Whatever your talent, you can use it to touch someone else’s life for the better.
Holly Corbett is the co-founder of Runaway Bridesmaids. Connect with them on Facebook and Twitter and support their efforts to raise money for New Light.