It’s a story she’s told many times and will continue to tell.
“I first learned about human trafficking while I was an undergraduate student at Cal State Fullerton. I came across an article about sex trafficking in India and it stopped me in my tracks. I was absolutely horrified, and felt a sense of personal urgency I had never felt before.”
Today, Blythe Hill ’08, ’11 (B.A., M.A. English) is the CEO and founder of the Dressember Foundation, an anti-trafficking organization that engages women and men in the fight to end modern-day slavery.
In six years, Dressember has raised $7.5 million for anti-trafficking programs across the world, from prevention and intervention to rescue and restoration. Hill has shared her story, “How a Dress Can Change the World,” via TEDx Los Angeles Public Library; and the nonprofit has been featured by Forbes, Glamour, InStyle, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan and Relevant magazines, as well as the “Today” show.
And it all started with a dress.
A Fitting Campaign
“For years, I tried to find a way to engage in the anti-trafficking fight, but the conventional pathways (i.e., criminal justice, social work) didn’t feel true to who I am and how I’m wired,” said Hill, who also has a strong interest in fashion.
As a personal style challenge, Hill began wearing a dress every day in December. In 2013, she added a cause — asking friends and family to donate funds for anti-trafficking and hoping to raise $25,000. They hit the goal in three days and raised $165,000 in a month.
Shortly after, Hill applied for 501(c)3 status to start a nonprofit organization and the Dressember movement was born.
“During our annual campaign, thousands of people around the world commit to wearing a dress or a tie every day during December as a way to raise awareness and funds for anti-trafficking programs,” she explained. “It’s a fun, easy way to be part of a global community and have a significant impact.
“When I turned Dressember into a campaign, I knew there was a good chance I’d end up looking really foolish: ‘Here’s a girl who thinks she can end modern-day slavery by putting on a dress,'” she shared. “But I realized if I could help even one person, then it was worth the risk of looking like a fool to a thousand people.”
Writing Her Story
Hill credits her two-time alma mater for laying the foundation for her career, particularly the creative writing classes that helped hone her storytelling skills.
“Studying English taught me the importance of clear communication. I engage in speaking and writing opportunities on a regular basis, so it’s important that I organize my thoughts in a way that is compelling and clear,” she said.
“My studies at CSUF also prepared me to read and synthesize large quantities of research materials pertaining to trafficking.”
Dressember recently announced partnerships with Anti-Slavery International, an organization that helps businesses clean up their supply chains to erradicate labor trafficking; Truckers Against Trafficking, which trains individuals in the trucking industry to spot trafficking; and The Freedom Story, an organization that promotes ethical storytelling to bring awareness to trafficking in Thailand.
“I’m grateful to CSUF for being a place where I was exposed to so many issues and injustices like this one,” said Hill. “It shaped me into a global citizen and inspired a life of advocacy work.”