On Tuesday evening I went to watch the SheFest screening of SOLD at the showroom cinema. The film, which is based on true stories, follows the journey of Lakshmi a young girl who is trafficked from rural Nepal to a brothel named “Happiness House” in Kolkata, India. The film is by no means an easy watch, but I believe a necessary one. My message to you all would be to watch it, you won’t enjoy it but you will be transformed by it.
My heart broke at the beginning of the film as we watched Lakshmi’s parents send her away in desperation, the weather having destroyed their crops and their home in need of a new tin roof. They now have no income and when Lakshmi is offered what sounds like a great job ‘in the city’, they truly believe that they are sending their beloved daughter to a safe and happy place of work, they can’t foresee the horrors which will await her. We then watched as Lakshmi is beaten, abused and held captive. It was striking how quickly she became resigned to her fate and no longer fought the men who were her ‘customers’. Her tear stained face and broken body and spirit brought me to tears and made me want to climb into the cinema screen and rescue her.
I was humbled by the relationships she developed with the other girls and the personal sacrifices they made for one another – it was so stark to see these moments of love and compassion in a place where it otherwise didn’t exist. The film finishes with Lakshmi’s gutsy escape from ‘Happiness House’ and the freeing of the other girls in captivity there. It was an uplifting ending which provided some hope for the audience, but there were still so much sadness at the end, the cinema was silent as the credits rolled. I left the film a changed person, you cannot watch that sort of horror and not be affected by it.
After, I then set up my stall selling products made by women like the ones I’d just seen in the film and began to digest what I’d just seen. I felt overwhelmed and unsure of what I could do to help. But I know that we all have to do something, doing nothing is not an option. We can talk about it, we can pray for these girls, we can support them in rebuilding their new lives by buying the beautiful things they have made whilst being upheld by some truly inspirational organisations.
We currently have some amazing things made by the survivors of human trafficking on sale in the shop and I believe that these products are made even more beautiful because of the woman who has made them and the lifeline that this employment has provided.
This simple black, striped bag which reads “Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly” is one of my favourite items and most definitely on my wish list! A great size, with a thick woven strap which is long enough to be worn over the shoulder or across the body. Made by Freeset, a fantastic organisation working in India and offering dignified employment to hundreds of women who have been trafficked into the sex trade. Through making products, such as these bags, women begin their journey to rebuild their lives and also become a symbol of hope to the other women who are still trapped in prostitution.
I love these plaited bracelets, also from FreeSet, which are made from recycled saris. These are something you can wear everyday which can be used to prompt you to start a conversation about human trafficking and break down the silence which surrounds it. They are inexpensive but their worth is far higher than the price tag – wouldn’t it be amazing if every person who came into the shop bought one, that really would be a conversation starter!
This beautiful notebook, from Love Calcutta Arts, covered in vivid coloured, vintage sari material is soft to the touch and beautiful to look at. The pages are made from recycled cotton rags and woollen blankets and contain no woodfibers, meaning that they are completely environmentally friendly. It comes with a tie close and a pencil tucked inside. Love Calcutta Arts work with girls to help lift them out of poverty and the risk of abuse that come with it, by providing them with a job which not only gives them economic freedom but also seeks to restore their sense of dignity and self-worth.
This beautiful, adjustable length, heart pendant made by women living in the Starfish Project, is a statement piece of jewellery which is sure to spark conversation about the issue of modern day slavery. The Starfish Project works in Asia and provides trafficked women with a rescue that is three fold. It allows them to physically escape, by providing a safe, stable and secure living environment for the women and their children. Starfish also provide counseling to begin work on the emotional rescue which is also desperately required. And thirdly, they provide schooling and employment to give the rescued woman hope for the future.
I have been a long-time fan of the beautifully scented soap from Dalit. It produces a rich lather and is kind to sensitive skin. The Life Association have been building schools and children’s homes amongst the Dalit communities in India for 20 years. Through their “Dalit” range of products they aim to raise awareness and funds to help with their work with India’s Dalit children, who all have very limited opportunities in life and in particular protect the girls from being sold into the sex industry.
We have so many other items in the shop each with come with an equally beautiful story. Your purchases give freedom to so many girls and young women who are trapped in horrifying realities, so please come in and buy or at the very least lets break the silence and start talking about it.