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'Free the Girls' campaign fights human trafficking


Jamie Mercer with some donations at Woo Boutique in downtown Columbus.

Jamie Mercer with some donations at Woo Boutique in downtown Columbus. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff


Sarah Fowler



A Columbus woman is urging other local women to band together and help a generation on the other side of the world. 


Jaimie Mercer is bringing the national charity Free The Girls to the Golden Triangle and urging women to donate their gently used bras to victims freed from human trafficking. 


When women donate their used bras, Mercer will send them to the Free The Girls organization who will then ship then bras to Mozambique, Africa, where women who have been freed from human trafficking will sell them to earn a living. 


With the undergarments coming from the United States, Mercer said the organization "gives them a leg up on other people selling second hand clothes in Africa." 


Founded in 2010, Free The Girls has collected over 200,000 bras since it's conception. According to the organization's website,, African women are able to go to school while earning five times minimum wage by selling the under garments. 


"By partnering with safe houses and after-care facilities, we provide an opportunity for women rescued from sex trafficking to earn a living selling second-hand clothing while going to school, getting healthy, and caring for their families," the website says. "Selling clothes allows them to work as much or as little as their school schedule permits." 


Mercer, who first learned of the organization several years ago, said she decided to get involved with the charity as a way to help women she wouldn't be able to help otherwise. 


"I heard one of the statistics that there were 27 million people in slavery all over the world, most of those being women and children, and it just bothered me," Mercer said. 


"I couldn't sleep and it continued to bother me and I wondered 'How can I help do something about it?' You feel helpless being on the other side of the world." 


The seminary student decided to do something about it. She found a local business that would serve as a drop-off point for the bras, spoke with members of her church and took the project to social media. 


"Most women have bras that don't fit or they don't like," she said. "Instead of throwing them away, this is a great opportunity to donate to this cause. I just thought this would be a great thing for the ladies of Columbus to be able to help with that." 


Mercer said she has already received an overwhelming response in donations at her home and at the drop-off location, Woo Boutique, in downtown Columbus. 


"I've really been amazed and encouraged because so many ladies that I have talk to about it, have gotten so excited about the prospects of helping somebody else," Mercer said. "I think that's encouraging that people want to help people they've never met or never will meet." 


Woo Boutique will be collecting the bras until the end of the month. In addition to donating bras, donations for shipping are being accepted as well.


Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.



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