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Dawn Manske

Providing hope, dignity, and opportunity through global employment

“I Am Made for Freedom”

By Megan Gieske

Dawn Manske believes strongly in hope, dignity, and opportunity. She runs Made for Freedom in St. Louis, Missouri, which partners with centers around the world to provide dignified employment for marginalized women and encourages American consumers to ask, “How does my purchase empower women?”

After living in China for 10 years, first teaching English as a second language then as a program director for the international church in Beijing, Manske began to understand the concept of trafficking from Beijing’s street children enslaved in labor. She says it’s “exploiting the vulnerabilities of the impoverished.”

When Manske returned to the United States in 2008, she learned more about trafficking from a justice organization. She wanted to make a difference in the lives of trafficked women and children in countries like China, but had no idea how to do that from St. Louis, Missouri.

Manske purchased a pair of fisherman’s pants from Thailand, and in 2011, her husband gave her Ugandan sandals. Proceeds from the sale of the sandals furthered the education of Ugandan women. Manske began to ask, “Could these pants be the foundation to help women either vulnerable to sex trafficking or rescued from it?”

“At the time, I had four part time jobs, no experience with business, and was recently married,” she says. Manske founded Made for Freedom, planning a business that donated 20% of all profits and employed women at dignified wages.

Made for Freedom changed the pattern of traditional fisherman’s pants from Thailand, and gave them the name “Creabeli,” which comes from “CREating a BEautiful LIfe.” All of Made for Freedom’s products made by survivors of sex trafficking carry that name with them, providing the dignity and respect to lift these women from poverty.

Made for Freedom sources their products from centers globally. Their original partnership in Chiang Mai, Thailand rescues and teaches sewing to women vulnerable to exploitation because they are minorities not allowed residency in Thailand. Another partnership with Freeset Global in Calcutta, India, trains and employs women who have escaped prostitution in Sonagachi, a red light district where between 10,000 and 12,000 women are prostituted.

From Calcutta, Priyanka—at just 13—entered an arranged marriage and her mother-in-law’s household. One day, a group of men paid her mother-in-law for permission to gang rape her while in the family’s field. Ashamed, she fled to an uncle, who sold her into a brothel in Calcutta. Enslaved in a red light district for years, Freeset Global rescued her from prostitution and taught her how to sew. Now, she’s founding a weaving center on her deceased father’s land, where she can independently employ other survivors. Manske says, “Providing life skills and job training lasts a lifetime.”

Manske’s message is understanding vulnerabilities that lead to exploitation and the value of dignified employment like Priyanka’s. She’s started an online campaign called “I Am Made for Freedom” to promote this message connected to Fashion Revolution’s worldwide online campaign, “Who Made Your Clothes?” in honor of the 3,5000 fatalities and injuries from the collapse of a Bangladesh sweatshop in 2013. Manske invites thinking about your purchases: “Where was this made? Who made this? Were they supplying dignity?”