A Look Into The Dressember Dress Production
We recently collaborated with Elegantees to bring you the 2017 Dressember Dress Collection. Elegantees partners with Kingdom Investment Nepal (KIN) to employ women rescued from trafficking situations on the Nepal-Indian border. Purchases made on the Dressember dress line allow Elegantees to employ more trafficked women at their garment factory, KHG. In fact, enough revenue has already come in to provide a years worth of salary to a seamstress that has been on a waitlist to work at KHG. Today on the blog, we're sharing an interview between Kyra, a Dressember advocate, and Esther, a site manager at Elegantee's garment factory in Nepal.
As we entered through the gate, we were joyfully greeted by the site managers and led toward the main building. We respectively removed our shoes, left them on the stone steps under the hot sun, and made our way inside. I took a seat in a chair by the window and waited for the rest of the staff to join us. KHG has twelve employees, made up of jobs and roles that turn a layer of fabric into a stunning garment.
I shared with them how I spent the last few years participating in Dressember and my heart for fighting human trafficking. I told them how thankful I was to be meeting with them today, so I could help share their stories. I wanted to share them so when people look down at the clothes they wear, they consider the hands that made it and how the simple act of purchasing clothes to cover our bodies is making a difference in a woman reclaiming her own. Below is the conversation with my new friend, Esther: Her story of justice and rescue, of passion and perseverance. The name below has been changed, so the women behind the stories can remain secure and safe.
"The simple act of purchasing clothes to cover our bodies is making a difference in a woman reclaiming her own."
KYRA: Esther, It’s been really great to get to know you better the past few days. You’re such a strong woman of hope as you help rescue and restore women of trafficking. I feel that the issue of trafficking is partly due to the issue of gender inequality, so I’m really curious:
What is it like to be a girl in Nepal?
ESTHER: Nepal is a male-dominant country. Since sons keep the name, parents always wanted boys. There could be eight girls in the family, still they wanted a boy. They [would] send the boy to school, but keep the girls to stay at home helping mother with cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, raising goats, and cutting the grass for the animals. My sister, who is 16 years older than me, always wanted to go to school, but my father said "No." He thought there was no need for a girl to go to school because what do you do after you go to school? You have to go to your husband’s home. You have to work there, be a mother, and raise your children. So she couldn’t go to school. But now, like in the bigger cities, many people are more educated and they think their boys and girls are equal. So now, boys and girls are raised equally and both are sent to school. Girls get educated, and parents support their daughters.
In your opinion, why do you think Nepal is high for human trafficking?
Esther: One reason I have experienced is because we have an open border to India. You don’t need to get a visa to go there so it’s easy to take girls within the borders. The other is the lack of education for kids and parents, and the lack of money and job opportunity. For example, if there is a girl [who] is completing grade 10, when she passes she will need a job. If she cannot find one, and someone comes to her home and says “Lets go! We can go to India, get a job there, and get more money.” She goes and then she becomes a victim to trafficking.
Can you tell me more about KIN and what they do?
Esther: Kingdom Investment Nepal sounds like an investment company, and it is, because we invest in the girls’ lives. First, we stop the girls at the border, and counsel them on what is trafficking and tell them we don’t want that to happen to them. If there is a genuine reason why she is going to India, we will see the proof, like for treatment or to see relatives. We’ll know that in the documents she shows. If not, we’ll talk to the parents and see if she wants to come to the safe houses and learn skills that will help them sustain themselves. They stay in there 6-8 months, and learn the skills we can provide for them. If they have a good relationship with the family, we will reintegrate them into the family, and if not then we’ll help them set up a business.
You must have seen a lot throughout the years, any stories you would want to share?
Esther: I have seen so many girls' lives changed. There was a girl we rescued at 16. She was taken to India when she was 14 and was trafficked there for two years. Somehow she got out and returned home, but she couldn’t find any support from her family because they knew what had happened to her. She tried to go back to India, but that time she was stopped at the border by KIN. She was taken to the safe house, but she did not like it and after months there she ran away. Our team went to find her, and when they did, she returned to the safe house. After a few months she said to me, “You saved my life, and now I want to help save other girls’ life”. So she is now working at the border and helping to rescue girls. She recently got married and is doing great.
Wow. That is incredible. So how does a woman get a job here?
Esther: Some girls cannot go back to their families and to their homes, so we support them to come work here. So many girls are waiting to work here, but we don’t have space or resources yet to hire them all.
Do you find the girls are really excited to work here when they get offered a job?
Esther: Yeah, they are really happy to work here. They say, “We will work here for a long time!” If they get married and can’t come here to work, then I would encourage them to start their own business. But if they don’t marry, then working here is safe with support and the family.
Thanks to Kyra for giving us a peek inside Elegantee's garment factory in Nepal through the eyes of one of their site directors, Esther. We will continue to share more of her insider interviews in the future, so stay tuned to the blog. Have you purchased your 2017 Dressember dress yet? We are hopeful and expectant that sales from the Dressember dress line will allow Elegantees to hire more women at KHG in Nepal. Pre-sale orders are 20% off until October 1st.
About the Author
Kyra is a photographer and storyteller drawn to the love and beauty we each possess. She chases her curiosity in this world we share together, but currently calls the Midwest home where she resides with her husband and two cats. She loves spending her time laughing with others, enjoying the outdoors, and you can often find her with her nose in a good book.