Sudara: Opportunity for a Beautiful Life
Since 2006, Sudara has employed over 2,000 women through their sewing center partnerships throughout India and several nearby countries, empowering former sex workers and high-risk women with a means to support themselves and their families. The name Sudara is inspired by a Sanskrit word that means “beautiful” and describes what the lives of the women and their families are able to become.
While participating in trips to India, Sudara Founder and CEO Shannon Keith’s heart broke for the women who were trapped in sex slavery and at high risk for trafficking due to a lack of education, resources and skills. Shannon’s team of family and friends felt that the pathway to freedom and choice would lie in safe, steady and living-wage employment. Within a year, they had partnered with a sewing center in India and taught six women how to sew a pattern for loungewear pants - their signature Punjammies®, a play on the word “pajamas” and the name of the Indian and Pakistani region, Punjab, which is the origin of the loose-fitting trouser so often associated with the diverse area.
If that’s not exactly your speed, they also sell tees, tanks, accessories and even yoga pants. At Sudara, each purchase invests in job creation and skills training for women in India who are at high risk or are survivors of sex trafficking.
The nonprofit views themselves as a partnership between the women they serve, their headquarters team, and their customers. It is their belief that each party plays their role in sustainable and dignified job creation with the goal of ending sex trafficking. Despite the challenges of funding and running an international company, Sudara’s team gains inspiration from the women and children they serve in India.
One of the most recent inspiring stories is Kala’s story. Most of the women in Kala’s family are in the sex trade. She tried to hide this fact when she was at school. She didn’t want the other students to make fun of her and she wanted to do something else when she graduated. As the oldest daughter, though, everyone assumed that she would one day enter the sex trade and help take care of her younger siblings. That one day came after Kala completed the 10th grade. Her mother had an illness that was getting progressively worse. Her mother became bedridden and could no longer work. Her family, in need of income, forced her into the sex trade. Several months later, a few representatives from a Sudara partner center were in Kala’s village talking about the skills training programs and raising awareness about trafficking. Kala heard their message and asked for help. She saw this opportunity as her only way out. Kala is now living in safe housing through a Sudara partner center and receiving tutoring in computer skills and spoken English. She said that when she came to the centers she was very withdrawn from activities and nervous, but the staff and center “gave me confidence and communication skills along with dignity and meaning to my life.” She was recently accepted into college and will begin those studies next year. For more stories like Kala’s, visit Sudara’s blog!
When Sudara women go to work, they are joining a beneficial community that cares about their wellbeing as a whole person. The sewing centers are more than a workplace; they give opportunities that the women may not have access to in or near their homes. Each situation is different, but the women who work for Sudara’s partner centers typically walk their children to school and then take the provided transportation to their job. There they are mentored and trained by veteran seamstresses or expert trainers. Their workday includes tea breaks, lunch, and access to clean bathrooms, water and medical facilities. Sudara works to find partners who run micro sewing centers, which are very small and place an emphasis on community.
Sudara’s mission is rooted in job development for women in India who are at the highest risk or are survivors of sex trafficking. The Sudara team believes this is a practical way to do their part to end slavery. Sudara enables women to make choices for themselves and for their families and creates deep change through hand-ups, not handouts. Purchases of Sudara goods and clothing support training and jobs for the women who make the products and fund investments in a nonprofit arm of Sudara that provides for those same women across their entire ecosystem, supporting sustainable pathways to freedom.
What’s the best way you can help? Buy products from Sudara and other like-minded companies, and be sure to sign up for their mailing list - they have frequent sales! Seek out companies that are creating deep and transformational impact through sustainable job creation, not just giving away handouts. For women (and men too) who find themselves in a terrible social or economic situation, having a job that allows them to support themselves and their families changes everything. You can, and should, also demand transparency from your favorite brands. If they don’t have a virtuous supply chain, consider taking your business elsewhere in order to align your spending power with your values. By providing sustainable employment, Sudara shows us how it’s possible to make a difference for communities that are vulnerable to trafficking. Click on their logo below to start shopping!
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About the Author
Rae Rohm is an avid baker, an enthusiastic storyteller, and a thoughtful writer who hails from Delaware. She is a graduate of Biola University, where she studied journalism. When she is not teaching people about the glories of her home state, she can be found enjoying nature with her sweet but mischievous puppy, singing along to music while running on the treadmill, and making gifts for her family and friends. Rae loves using her skills and talents to bring all people - past and present, near and far - into fellowship with one another.