by CHRISTINE BIGNEY
You can walk into many of the stores in downtown Rockford, and there is a good chance that the business is owned by a woman.
In the United States and in West Michigan, women – and people in general – enjoy many opportunities to benefit from their own efforts, improve their lives and ‘live the American dream.’
In the media, today’s news is all of the sky is falling variety, forgetting or failing to note that our quality of life in the U.S., and in West Michigan, is not really so bad. In fact, we are in a position to help others who truly are in economic and personal disaster.
Jessica Gordon, a local business woman, runs WAR Chest Boutique located at 119 Courtland Street in downtown Rockford. She believes people will be willing to help improve the lives of others if they are given an opportunity.
Gordon tells how her organization helps women in Asia in regions that have become the newest source for traffickers of young destitute girls and women, some as young as nine years old. They are transported across borders and sold into sexual slavery throughout Asia.
Gordon tells of an African business woman who was tricked into selling her business and moved to Thailand where she expected to start a new business. Instead she was forced into prostitution.
But there is hope for these women through a Christian organization called Women At Risk (WAR) International.
Partnering with several different programs in other countries like Thailand, Uganda, Nepal, India, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Jordan and the Philippines, Gordon’s boutique showcases jewelry these girls and women produce in safe houses which are sponsored by WAR. The jewelry are made from pearls and semi-precious stones.
“The jewelry is sent on consignment, with the safe houses setting the prices. The proceeds go to these women to help them get their GED, get them proper medical care, preventative medical care,” Gordon explained.
Gordon found herself running the Rockford store after some mutual friends asked her if she was interested. A grant from a private foundation made it possible. “It was kind of an experiment, “Gordon related, “to see if showcasing the women’s work in an environment such as Rockford would work.”
Gordon went to India in her senior year of high school. “I was always interested in going there. I have always been interested in different cultures. My mom used to call me ‘Justice Jessica’ because I always got mad at mean people.”
What she saw was a lot of poverty. “What I walked away with is that they would not question their lot in life. The women in the lower castes felt like they had no control over what is to become of them and many end up becoming prostitutes.”
Gordon stated that women in most cultures overseas are targeted for slavery and prostitution. That is why WAR sponsors programs that teaches these women skills so they can keep them out of the red light district. “You can keep throwing money at them all day, but if you don’t train them, it won’t solve the problem,” Gordon said.
WAR sponsors safe houses, where women are rescued from trafficking and provided job training.
Gordon said that the Rockford area has shown support and concerned for the programs WAR are involved in. “People like knowing that they are purchasing something that is supporting someone,” Gordon said.
For more information on WAR, visit their website at www.warinternational.org, or visit the boutique Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. They are closed Sunday and Monday.