I fear that we are about to beat a dead horse into the ground on this blog with our continued talk of Freeset and Sari Bari, but we're putting a press release out on Monday and I thought I'd post it on here for you to see.
Thanks for your continued support of all we're about here at World Next Door!
The designs are simple: swirling daisies, the dark silhouettes of gnarled trees, cheerfully placed dots. A recycled sari, once used as a traditional Indian dress, is now a bamboo-handled purse.
The stories behind these bags, however, are more complex. The purses, available at World Next Door, downtown Chattanooga’s fair trade store, are made by women who were formerly forced to work in the sex industry in Kolkata, India. Today, thanks to fair trade, the women are able to support themselves and their families by creating and marketing the bags.
World Next Door managers Jency and Nathan Shirai traveled to eastern India in April and May, where they were able to meet some of the women who make the bags that line the shelves of their store.
“Every time I sell a Freeset or Sari Bari bag, I picture the women’s smiling faces and the joy in their eyes from having a job where they are treated with dignity and respect,” Jency Shirai said. “By selling their bags, we are playing a small part in Chattanooga to transform a community from the inside out.”
Sari Bari and Freeset are two of the companies the Shirais met with while in India. Sari Bari takes its name from two symbols: a sari, which is the traditional clothing worn by Indian women and the representation of womanhood, and bari, which means house or home. The company seeks the freedom and restoration of Kolkata’s red light districts by giving women affected by the sex trade industry dignified employment opportunities.
Freeset employs former prostitutes, many of whom were trafficked into Kolkata’s sex districts from neighboring countries like Bangladesh or Nepal. Today, more than 140 women work for the company, which produces approximately 1,000 bags each day. Employees at Freeset are paid a fair wage for their labor and receive health insurance and a pension plan with their job.
World Next Door’s relationship with these Kolkata-based businesses is living proof that local consumers who shop with their conscience in mind can make a global difference.
Fair trade is an alternative business practice that hinges on guaranteeing fair wages and dignified working conditions for producers in marginalized economic systems.