Starfish Project: About the Makers
Who are Starfish?
Starfish Project is a not for profit organisation that supports women who have experienced sexual exploitation and human trafficking in Asia. Starfish's life-changing work is funded through their jewellery social enterprise; the jewellery is handmade by the women in Asia who are rebuilding their lives. Founded in 2006 by CEO, Jenny McGee, the organisation has grown from five women sitting around a dining room table, to over 142 women completing Starfish's holistic care program.
"They deserve joy, they are loved, and they have the utmost worth. They matter. That truth is what drives everyone who works for Starfish Project. We want to share this message with every woman we come in contact with, and hopefully some day they’ll believe it for themselves.”
- Jenny McGee, Starfish Project CEO
About the issue
According to research done by the Global Slavery Index (GSI), in 2016 an estimated 40.3 million people were held captive in modern day slavery around the globe, 71% of which were female. Asia and the Pacific have the highest prevalence of slavery compared with other regions around the world, and make up 73% of the world's cases of forced sexual exploitation (source).
How Starfish operates
Starfish Project sends out teams each week to visit vulnerable women in brothels in Asian cities. These teams provide medical support, education, and birthday celebrations. Starfish also runs safe shelters for women in the cities they operate which gives the women security in the transition between leaving the sex industry and becoming independent.
Starfish's Holistic Care Program provides each woman that comes to Starfish with healthcare, shelter, counselling, and vocational training. Women are equipped with life skills that enable them to learn to live independently.
The jewellery social enterprise provides the women with opportunities to develop their skills and build a career, not only in jewellery making, but also in management positions, accounting, graphic design, and photography. The women that work at Starfish are paid a fair wage, work in safe conditions, and are treated with love and respect.
"I grew up in a poor village in the countryside with my parents and my older brother. When I was in high school, I had to drop out before earning my diploma. Then, I was trafficked into a brothel by a relative. I was only a teenager at the time. While I was working in the brothel, I was incredibly depressed, alone and without any hope. I was not sure if I would survive working there much longer. One day, Starfish Project outreach teams met me in the brothels and offered me a way out through their company.
"I started working in jewelry production at Starfish Project and worked my way up quickly. Eventually, I started managing the Finished Product Room and started selling Starfish Project jewelry at events and bazaars in our headquarters city. During this time, I also went through Starfish Project’s vocational training program. I took English and computer classes, and received professional certifications in Microsoft Word and Excel. Once I completed the computer training program, Starfish Project supported my accounting training at a local school. I studied really hard, passed my accounting certification test, and am now working as the accounting assistant at Starfish Project. It meant a lot to have the Starfish staff recognize my potential. I love learning new skills. I am so grateful for the new opportunities studying accounting has provided.
"Having the opportunity to study at Starfish Project has been very significant for me. I was nervous when I started studying accounting but everyone at Starfish Project was so encouraging and supportive. I work side-by-side with Starfish Project’s accountant, who has over 20 years of experience in the field. She mentors me daily, and I have learned so much from working alongside her. I am also studying for my Bachelor’s Degree and am pursuing my dream to be an accountant."
You can support people like Fay by purchasing Starfish Project jewellery here.