We are so thrilled to get to share today’s guest post! Paula Watts is an incredible lifestyle photographer
who lived in India for several years. So you can imagine how thrilled we were to arrange for her to visit our sewing center in Hyderabad. Here’s a bit about her time there and a few of the MANY gorgeous images she captured during her time there. Enjoy!
I hardly knew what to expect traveling to Hyderabad to photograph the formerly trafficked women that International Princess Project works with. How do you prepare yourself for the emotions and the stories and that kind of reality?
I remember the first time I ever learned about human-trafficking. Admittedly, it wasn’t all too long ago. My husband and I were living in South Africa at the time and it was about a year before the 2010 World Cup. We were noticing posters around town asking if you’ve been “approached” with promise of work or schooling opportunities from someone you didn’t know and if so, please dial a hotline number as you may be vulnerable for trafficking. WHAT? It’s that easy? It’s that common? It’s happening around me? It made my blood boil, my stomach turn, and that feeling you get down your spine when you hear nails down a chalkboard.
Today, having educated myself on the tragic figures of human trafficking, knowing that it happens everywhere in the world (no, not just far from where we all live), not just by large villain-like movie characters (sometimes by family members or kind looking “good samaritans”), I still find it hard to comprehend how it happens and what to do about it. The sheer evil involved to trick, sell, or coerce someone into a life she is trapped into, a child sold for pennies, a woman caged, a young girl used for sex and seeing no future of anything else. It’s gut wrenching and it needs to stop. As Shannon, the founder of IPP, so eloquently puts it, “we have a zero tolerance policy”.
Shouldn’t we all?
For me, getting to photograph the rescued women that IPP helps to rebuild their lives, their dignity and to make a sustainable way for them to succeed in life was a gift to me in so many ways. It was certainly an emotional struggle to actually put faces to statistics and proper names to tragedies we had merely only discussed about. But it was necessary. And powerful. And messy. And I won’t lie, there was a lot of crying at in-opportune times, and emotions that welled up in the my throat, making it hard to speak or even swallow. But it wasn’t because these women, or I should say, young women, were sitting in pity. They weren’t sitting in a corner refusing to talk, as I would fully understand (and even expect). And it wasn’t because I felt sorry for them. It was because they, for the first time, maybe ever, are seeing a future for their lives. They are seeing hope. They are seeing and experiencing that elusive light at the end of the tunnel, and they are understanding joy. Because they are given a chance to learn a viable trade, earn a livable wage, and have resources like counseling and schooling for their children, with the help of IPP, they have a life they dreamed of. And they smile. And giggle. And their eyes sparkle and they are beautiful. And they are on the road to restoration.