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.
It has been A MINUTE since I've written a book post! It's actually been over a year, which is a shock — I have read some excellent books this year, and I know many of you are avid readers!
In the past, I've shared book lists for: different points-of-view, family dynamics, & books to give as gifts... today's post/list is nothing more than a thoroughly biased list of books I've enjoyed recently & recommend!
Hasn't this been the refrain of the week?! "Hard to believe that it has been a year."
A year ago, I published a blog post, "A Kantha Blanket's Journey" : a behind-the-scenes look from creation of a blanket in Bangladesh to enjoyment in your living room.
But, the truth is that it was really a way to address the un-(or subtly-)spoken concern from people wondering if they would get COVID-19 in the mail with their blanket!
Somehow, impossibly, I travelled around the world one year ago!
I am deeply grateful to have taken a trip to Bangladesh when I did. I was at a stage of my life & business when the adrenaline had long worn off, and I was a getting a bit stuck in a cultural mindset trap: "I don't feel like doing this every day."
More details on that, I'll save for another day (or perhaps for a more intimate conversation!). But, let it suffice to say that my colleagues in Bangladesh do NOT operate from that mindset... it doesn't even factor into the conversation.
Being reminded of this, as well as seeing — in person — the inner workings and impact of the blanket biz on the production side... well, it was deeply regenerative for me.
If I had not visited in January 2020, I don't know when that trip would have taken place! Soooo thankful.
Here is one story of a woman artisan I met: Poli.