I (Shelley) started dignify in 2012, but had never visited in person our single production partner, Basha, in Bangladesh.
In January 2020, I traveled on my own to Dhaka, to spend one week in the country, including a visit to a 2nd production centre (of a total of 5), located in Jessore.
• See the production & processes in person
• Meet many artisans who make our blankets
• Meet & work in person with the office staff (with whom I most communicate)
• Experience Bangladesh
• Be inspired and invigorated for the work
I was a bit intimidated to go, mainly because of the poverty of the country & the sadness of many artisan's stories. Would I feel desolate and sad? Would I feel hot shame for my wealth and lifestyle?
Well, there were certainly sad stories, for sure. There is injustice that I can't reckon with. But, there is hope. There is goodness. There is so much goodness in Basha's work: literacy & schooling for the illiterate; work that is reliable and devoid of chaos; love and acceptance.
Overwhelmingly, there was humanity (and I don't just mean the masses of tens of thousands of people I saw on some days in the world's most densely populated city). I had previously worried — who am I? I have experienced nothing... I haven't needed a tiny fraction of the resilience you have lived...
But, in reality, we were all just people. Women. Not defined by our stories or backgrounds, but enjoying each other, face-to-face. The time I spent was a redemptive gift for me.
One of the challenges is to take these explosions of color and match two saris to feature as the outer layers of a kantha blanket. This was one of the aspects of production that I wanted to participate in while visiting.
We began with a tall stack of laundered, folded single saris — sorting them (as best as we could) by color. As you can see, it's more of a broad science than an exact one! By the middle of the process, there was a huge mess of patterns & color.
• Eating curries, biryani, samosas and more — all by hand (right hand only!) Everyone took care of me so well and always worried that I was hungry!
• Many different methods of transit: bus, car, CNG, rickshaw, plane, electric rickshaw ("auto"), and plenty of traffic :)
• Sourcing repurposed saris to use for our blankets, in Old Dhaka
• Seeing the indigo dye process in person (incredible!)
• Staying at the Friends of Basha hostel, where four artisans & trainees live as they transition into independent, safe, living
• Sitting in on Basha's daily training & devotions, including an English class!
• Shopping for other textiles and spa pampering
• Visiting the brothel in Jeshore as well as the Salvation Army office that works across the street and in the brothel
• Many smiles, laughs, walks, ideas, some tears, and much gratitude & humility!
• Visit the links above to see my day-by-day reporting on my experience in Bangladesh, on Instagram.
• Shop dignify! This is the best, long-term, sustainable way to support the success of our business partner, Basha, and the extraordinary work that they do in Bangladesh.