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.
Looking back at some photos from last Christmas, I came across this screenshot from my phone that really made me laugh:
My husband was dropping off our parcels recently, and a woman working in our shipper's office said, "I was looking at your site, and I think I might buy some of these blankets this year as gifts; I'm mostly shopping online." Another employee chimed in, "I'm going to do all of my shopping online, too."
That evening, he went with our kids to the mall to pick something up (masked, natch), and as he surveyed the hallways — with some permanently closed stores, some shuttered from lack of employees, etc. — Wayne's thought was, "I think I need to do all my shopping at the mall!"
Recently, dignify received a review on our blankets that addressed the variety of our styles (color/pattern), and the contrast/matching choices that go into our kantha. Let's take a glimpse behind-the-scenes at the number of factors that contribute to these decisions.
How do we choose the fabric? How do we match saris to create the kantha blankets? Why are some combinations bad? Why aren’t there more grey/buttery yellow/navy blue color combos?
I know that many of you have wondered about these questions from time to time, too!