I remember when the idea of our Global Marketplace, Shared Trade, came into being in the summer of 2014. I was standing on a train pulling out of Oxford, England with the Thistle Farms contingency and felt the shift of muddled thoughts moving from the world of feeling and taking on shape. The idea of launching a Thistle’s Farms Global initiative started after an international gathering with inspired music and justice advocates speaking in wishes about how economic justice could change the story of many women. My mind was racing in that beautiful way it feels like when the sky opens at sunrise, and we started talking about connecting groups of survivors through story and commerce, through an alliance that increased the value of the producers in the market chain. We could start a global market called “shared trade”, cut out distribution fees, while at the same time help small not for profits find their way into social enterprise. It made sense: loving women to find new paths so they could gain economic independence. We could connect globally so that women could feel freedom locally. What was stunning was how gracefully the funding came and how excited people were to launch a new venture.
What became clearer as our vision grew was that this global market could help us increase profits to other established groups around the world. The shared trade network could be like a seal of approval for new groups trying to make their way in a crowded market, and it could connect us to new stories and women who share the story of violence and childhood trauma that could empower everyone. When we started this work, twenty years ago, I couldn’t have told you how far this circle would stretch, eventually giving life to a social enterprise, a global shared trade network, a national alliance network, and a net that is cast wide enough to hold the suffering of women who have experienced the universal issues of sexual assault on their individual backs.
The height, depth, and breadth of our witness is bold. We are unwavering in the proclamation that the story of a million women around the world being trafficked and abused is actually one story of one woman that we’ve met time and time again. Our experience, after 20 years, has always been that when we go to the streets or prison, we encounter a part of ourselves. This growth and expansion is not saying yes to everything; it is saying yes to one thing, Love.
Love connects us all and asks us to share its grace and mercy with the whole world, one person at a time. Such a mission will take our whole lives and hopefully sweep us up in a global movement that can end the cycle of trafficking, abuse, and the violence of poverty for the communities we serve.
Whether we are pouring wax for candles we light for the next woman finding her way home, sharing fabrics from Indonesia that tell the story of our sisters’ journey to financial freedom, or serving a cup of hot justice tea to a sojourner who visits the Thistle Stop Cafe, this work is about one thing: women’s freedom.
The market that treats human beings as commodities and barters their worth down to a global average of about $30 dollars seems insatiable, and so we are responding in kind to insidious injustices with unstoppable love and compassion. Thistle Farms is not done expanding or dreaming. There are cities looking to us to help them open new residents. There are global communities needing to find new markets for distribution and better access to services for women in trauma. There are more jobs with better wages to be created and a deep need for more sanctuary. We are just beginning to hit our stride for the journey ahead.
Peace and love,