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Paid work - making clothes - is a path back to normality, they say, a way to feel useful, not used, and learn how to fit into society after being trafficked underground. Fer said working alongside other trafficked women in a simple, white, inner-city workshop had helped her move on and put the past where it belonged. The women busily cut patterns and stitch garments, chatting as they work. Outside is the commotion of the Raval district — a hive of Pakistani grocers, poor immigrant families and tourists who cram the narrow cobblestone streets and mediaeval squares.
The Dona Kolors clothing brand was born in to help women like Fer regain confidence and start afresh. Businesses that help socially excluded women are springing up in Spain and further afield, in part to help the rising number of girls and women tricked and trafficked into sex work. Socially excluded women at Murcia-based A Puntadas make textiles for big-name clients such as Max Mara.
Prostitution thrives in Spain, which bucks trends in many developing country by attaching little stigma to men who pay for sex, according to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
All of which fuels demand for trafficked women, with the seamstresses lured from as far afield as Brazil and Nigeria. Prostitution in Spain is not legal but is tolerated, Bedia said. While exploiting the prostitution of others is a crime, owning an establishment where prostitution takes place is not in itself illegal, according to a European Parliament report.
And many struggle to win work post-training, as few speak fluent Spanish so must resort to casual work, such as cleaning. High unemployment in Spain only makes matters worse, she said. But organizations like Dona Kolors can face their own problems when it comes to self sufficiency. Last year, the brand, which has 10 permanent staff, made an income of 90, euros but its costs were double that. It is hard to keep the brand sustainable — buying cotton in Europe, for instance — while also chasing profits, she said.