Better Way Design offers hope for human trafficking victims

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The International Labour Organization estimates that there are more than 40 million victims of human trafficking globally.

More than 80% of them are trapped in forced labor and 75% are women and girls. Better Way Designs was one of 30 vendors featured at the fourth annual Global Market at First Congressional Church in Eau Claire

"It’s a company of hope."

That's the message from Better Way Designs Freedom Fighter, Barb Black. She's been working with the company for about a year. We asked how she got involved with becoming a freedom fighter.

“That’s kind of a long story. The short version is I went to a friend's party and had a woman come in, another freedom fighter like myself,” Black said. “She showed me everything there was and I heard the stories of women who found freedom and hope. That really spoke to me.

Better Way Designs sells products like blankets, bags, even dog collars and leashes made by women who have been freed from sex trafficking across the globe. But just selling these products is not all they do.

“With the counseling and education, now the women are learning to read and write, they're getting a fair wage so they can eventually leave these companies, they can start their own business or go to other companies so they can continue to better themselves and their families,” Black said.

Better Way Designs is a business. The more products they sell, the more women they can hire.

“If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, if you teach him to fish; you feed him for a lifetime,” said Black. “But if you buy his fish and go back for more, now we have a whole economy going.

Fellow freedom fighter Kristi Blackmon said the company gives women hope.

“Better Way is really a stepping stone for these women and that's what I like. We are not just trying to support them and maintain that support,” Blackmon said. “What we are doing is really empowering them to take control of their own lives and improve their situation.”

Most of the products are made from saris, a traditional dress worn by woman in India. According to the Better Way Designs website all the products are handmade by 15 different companies in nine countries.

“We sell hand-made, beautiful, fair-trade item,” Black said. “Scarves, jewelry, bags, there is a large variety.”

Black said a company that invests in these women empowers them for life.