Promises, Lies, & Fear of Trust in Bangladesh

March 15, 2019 3 min read

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):


I met Nasrin, a beautiful, warm person. She came from a family known well in the brothels, but she was able to marry and escape that life… until her husband found out about her family history and deserted her and their two daughters. She sent her daughters to an Islamic school. She doesn’t want them to ever find out how she earns the money to provide for them.

Kushi is heavily pregnant. She was promised a good job in a factory… only to find herself in a brothel. I whispered to her about Basha, how we could give her training and housing and help her escape this life.

We met a woman who had actually worked abroad as a medical worker. Upon returning to Bangladesh, her husband sold her to a brothel. Her current boyfriend seemed to be selling her and another girl who had only been there three weeks — lured from her job in a garments factory, promised something better. I begged both of them to consider joining us, longing for them to escape this life of selling themselves. She was anxiously looking for where her boyfriend was and voiced, “next year.”

 

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.


Leave a comment


Also in Shop Good Blog

How to Give a Great Gift

December 04, 2021 8 min read

I've said before that while I advocate for shopping thoughtfully & being slow... I love gifts! Actual, tangible, pull-the-wrapping-off gifts.

We want to make the gifts that we give worth it. Worth the money, the materials, the effort... So, how to choose a thoughtful gift that will be meaningful to the recipient?

Read More
Intentional Spending: 5 Ways to Shop With Purpose

October 22, 2021 4 min read

Intentionality simply means the act of being deliberate, purposeful

If you are a committed budgeter, there is no question of being intentional; you probably account for every dollar. But, nobody — even if you track every receipt — spends every single dollar how they wish to (dishwasher repairs, new socks, & lost library books come to my mind...).

Even so, we can be thoughtful about how money leaves our wallet, slides onto our credit card, decreases our bank balance… we can be deliberate & purposeful with even the smallest financial decisions.

Read More
Global Supply Disruption & dignify: What It Means for You

October 08, 2021 3 min read


This dignify post draws from Derek Thompson's October 7th article in The Atlantic.

Thompson's article explains the practical challenges in 2021 for consumers as well as for retailers.

Here's how some of these points relate to dignify right now and in the coming months:

Read More