Tassatags are made at The Regina Center in Nongkhai, Thailand. They are a fair trade product and provides work opportunities for women at risk for sex trafficking. keeping them employed, able to support their families and send their children to school.
The TassaTag Project addresses ECPAT’s mission to increase awareness of the sexual exploitation of children in tourism. It also assists the traveler in taking a responsible role in increasing this awareness, as well as assisting the travel industry to address the exploitation of children within their industry.
The TassaTag Project raises funds for :
•Training people in the Travel Industry to take a more active role against child sex tourism.
•Informing the public that sex tourism is against the law everywhere, and if caught the person will be prosecuted and extradited to their home country.
•Mobilizing congress against child sex tourism.
In addition, through this project we assist the Regina center in Nongkhai, Thailand. In 1981, the Good Shepherd Sisters came to Nongkhai, the Northeast region of Thailand and one of the poorest areas of the country, in which all lives relied on the rice crops. Working at first in the border camps, they had a good understanding of the local people. Also, having worked in Bangkok since 1965 with the women who had migrated to the city from the rural areas, they understood the pressures on rural families in trying to satisfy their most basic needs. So the Sisters, working with the Isan people, implemented development projects which have to this day been a source of empowerment, improving the quality of life for all involved.
To enable young girls and women to remain with their families and in their village communities, rather than moving to the cities in search of work, the sisters began a handicraft making centre in Nongkhai. The center offers opportunities for those employed to provide for their families and to further their own education. Approximately 205 other women, who are caring for young children at home, are offered work to do in their own home.
Women are taught to embroider, smock and use sewing machines. They are also are trained to take responsibility for management in all areas related to craft production, decision-making, accountancy, invoicing, quality control, packing, salaries and supervision. This teaches them to start a small business on their own when an opportunity occurs.
In 1993, Brenda Hepler attended the UN Human Rights Conference held in Vienna, Austria as a representative of a Children’s Rights Organization. A major issue at that Conference was the sex slavery and trafficking of children. When Brenda attended the UN Women’s Conference in Beijing in 1995, she found many of the workshops focused on this same issue.
What could one person do to make a difference? Brenda had been a teacher, a travel agent, a foreign student advisor, a storyteller, a cross-cultural educator, and an advocate for responsible tourism. Now, at age 68, this wife and mother decided to build upon her experience and contacts in the travel industry. After all, the promoters of sex slavery and trafficking of children took advantage of this industry. What better than a large, bright, and beautiful luggage tag! Travelers would be able to easily spot their luggage. Sales of the tags could raise awareness of the issue and assist in protecting children.
To counter this dark issue, the tags needed to be beautiful; they needed to represent the beauty of the children who were the victims. For her logo, she wanted the beauty and delicate strength of a flower. Since the daisy was the only flower she could draw, that image became her focus. Upon the advice of her son, she drew the daisy with one petal falling; the single petal looked like a tear. Nature wept for its own while maintaining its beauty and strength.
To begin the move from concept to finished product, Brenda worked with advisors from the San Francisco and Napa College Small Business Development Centers. She also received assistance from the Sawyer Center in Santa Rosa regarding prototype development and trademark.
The tags had to be in bright, bold colors and of sustainable fabric. Manufacturing had to meet the criteria for Fair Trade. She contacted the Regina Center in Nongkhai, Thailand. The Center met all her needs.
Brenda now had a plan and a product. She was ready to contact the US Chapter of Thailand-based ECPAT. As a result of her contact, TassaTag™ has become a project of ECPAT-USA.
Often when we hear the words sex slavery and trafficking, we think, “How horrible, but what can I do?” Now, with a TassaTag™, travelers can do something about it.