Our production partner, Basha, began in one little office in Dhaka, Bangladesh — the most densely populated city in the world. Over the many years they have been in business, creating kantha textiles & jewelry, they have expanded: both in number of staff, and also locations.
It was helpful for some women to leave the norm of their old life environment, to get away, to start fresh in a new city. So, Basha created different offices in varied locations. They established a girls' home to safely house daughters & other vulnerable young women as they come of age.
As Basha has continued to identify the great need of women in Bangladesh, there is another area they have expanded: actively seeking women in brothels & whispering the potential of a new life.
Basha used to hire women once they had completed training programs run by other NGOs and mission organizations. But with such a great need, Basha's team found themselves developing their own training (through Friends of Basha), and pursuing women to join it.
But, there is so much distrust. Many of the women in the brothels were promised something — "a good job" in a factory, or as a housekeeper... only to be sold to a brothel. Basha is working with an organization that works closely with the brothels, hoping that over time they will build trust and raise awareness that the work at Basha isn't another lie, a false hope.
Robin, Basha's Director of Operations, writes:
I have never met anyone who chose the brothel, who thought it sounded like a good life. But it’s not easy to escape. Many women have brokers, madams, pimps. By the time a woman is independent, she has often given up hope of any different kind of future. Brothels have their own culture, their own freedoms, their own community. To take a giant leap into the unknown is terrifying.
She shares stories of some recent encounters with women she met in brothels (names have been changed):
The theme of International Women's Day 2019 was "Balance for Better". Robin writes, "We can’t erase the horrors of years spent being prostituted, but we can promise to walk alongside any woman who is able to take that brave step to freedom. We can promise to fight not one day a year, but every day, to Balance for Better."
To support the outreach funds necessary — to do outreach to brothel women, to host drop in events, to build relationships, and to provide support and services — for those interested in starting a journey to a new life, you can donate today to Friends of Basha.
Purchasing kantha blankets, made by Basha & sold by dignify, provides the ongoing, sustaining work (with dignity!) for women who have transitioned into a new life of safe, healthy, loving employment.
All photos are by Allison Joyce, prize-nominated (pending) photojournalist. You can see more of her photos, along with in-depth journalism into brothels in Bangladesh, in these long-form articles for The Telegraph and Elle.
I was inspired by a goal that Elise Joy (goal-setter extraordinaire) set for herself for 2020: "Get dressed (in an outfit I feel good in) every day."
In Bangladesh, there are some cultural “rules” about what to wear that is appropriate. This amounts, basically, to covering your curves: two layers over your chest and rear. When I was there for a week, I essentially wore the same thing every day (a long, plain navy, cotton tunic, as well as a scarf). That had its own benefits (the ease of a "uniform"!), but I was also thrilled to come home and wear what I wanted to again.
But, with the freedom to wear whatever I wanted, the question came: what did I want to wear?
One subject I find really interesting is learning some behind-the-scenes of business and marketing. I've written before about how online brands use email subscriptions, discounts, and scarcity tactics to sell and grow. Some elements can be manipulative, but overall, I am just fascinated by how all of these hidden intricacies work.
In e-commerce businesses (retail stores that are all online) like mine, it is common to grow for the sake of growing. More sales, more staff, more products… isn’t that the definition of success?
Listen, I know that there are book lists for DAYS out there. This is another one, and I'm not pretending otherwise! It is completely biased and based on nothing other than what I have read recently. I love to read, I love to receive recommendations, and I love to share the books that I've enjoyed with others.
Every one of these books is my recommendation to YOU, but there are also ideas of other people in your life who might enjoy them. 😉 Comment below or fire me an email with your own best, recent reads!