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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
The Observer

International Justice Mission ND members to participate in Dressember

A club fairly new to Notre Dame, the International Justice Mission ND, will participate in Dressember, a larger non-profit campaign to end human trafficking and and help victims. In Dressember, participants wear dresses or ties the thirty-one days of December and have the option to campaign while they do so.

The Dressember kickoff will take place Saturday at 3 p.m. in the Sorin Room of LaFortune Student Center. There will be hot cocoa, free desserts and a photo shoot. Those attending are encouraged to wear a dress or a tie to start Dressember together. Sophomore co-president Malia Marshall will explain the event and provide an introduction to fundraising. It is not required for participants to fundraise, but if participants choose to do so, each individual will fundraise independently throughout the month. At the end of December, the club will combine all funds raised and send them to the Dressember foundation. Dressember then distributes the sum among its several partners, one of which is the International Justice Mission. Donations can be made on the club’s campaign page.

Marshall and her co-president, sophomore Ella Wood, started the International Justice Mission ND last January. Wood said the International Justice Mission of ND is one of several campus chapters.

“There are three goals: to support IJM through advocacy work, fundraising and prayer,” Wood said.

The Dressember event will incorporate all three of these goals, but the main goal is to start a conversation at Notre Dame about sex trafficking but also about human trafficking in general.

“The idea is raising awareness and starting conversations because people notice what you’re wearing,” Wood said. “Most people don’t wear dresses or ties everyday, especially when on a college campus.”

The idea of wearing a dress isn’t random. It symbolizes femininity, Marshall said.

“It doesn’t seem like a big deal to just wear a dress every day,” she said. “It doesn’t seem like you’re making that much of a difference, but the dress is a symbol of using our femininity to empower other women, and it starts conversations about trafficking that people don’t normally have because it’s not something that’s very visible every day, but a dress is a really visible symbol. People start to notice when you’ve been wearing a dress every day for a week, and then they ask you about it, and you get to start these conversations.”

Wood said the dress represents female dignity “rather than the degradation of sex trafficking.”

Wearing dresses during December in Indiana can seem daunting, but the impact is worth it, Wood said.

“Most people don’t realize that slavery is an issue at all — it’s something we tend to think of as a historical travesty,” she said. “It’s terrible, and it’s still ongoing today. We need people to realize that they can take steps to help us end it.”

Wearing a dress or tie whenever given the choice of what to wear is one step in tackling the issue.

“If I’m uncomfortable being outside in the cold for 10 to 15 minutes, then that is nothing compared to [what] the people we are aiming to help [go through],” Marshall said.

At least 20 people are expected to participate in Dressember, but the goal is to have 31 participants — one person wearing a dress or a tie for every day of the month. Both Marshall and Wood said they hope Dressember inspires passion in people to explore the issue of modern-day human trafficking. It should not be forgotten the other 11 months of the year, Marshall said.

Everyone is encouraged to join the challenge. Dressember raises awareness and contributes to a foundation that prevents and helps victims of human trafficking, but it requires creativity, Marshall said.

“It’s also a fashion challenge,” Wood said.