Frequently Asked Questions
What is human trafficking?
“Trafficking in persons” and “human trafficking” have been used as umbrella terms for the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 (Pub. L. 106-386), as amended, and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (the Palermo Protocol), describe this compelled service using a number of different terms, including involuntary servitude, slavery or practices similar to slavery, debt bondage, and forced labor. Human trafficking can include, but does not require, movement. People may be considered trafficking victims regardless of whether they were born into a state of servitude, were transported to the exploitative situation, previously consented to work for a trafficker, or participated in a crime as a direct result of being trafficked. At the heart of this phenomenon is the traffickers’ goal of exploiting and enslaving their victims and the myriad coercive and deceptive practices they use to do so. [source: US State Department]
Is human trafficking the same thing as slavery?
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery for the purpose of exploitation. Human trafficking can include, but does not require, movement. While slavery exploits through forced labor, human trafficking entraps people through recruitment, transportation with use of deception, fraud, force and abduction.
How do you define sex trafficking and sex slavery?
When we talk about sex trafficking and sex slavery we are talking about commercial sex acts that are induced through force, fraud, and/or coercion. The ladies in the sewing centers have endured significant trauma and abuse. The majority of women enter the brothels in one of three ways: they were trafficked, born into it and then coerced, or impoverished and forced to repay never-ending debts through bonded servitude.
Why is it important for companies to get involved on the ground in communities rather than donating money to solve the problem?
We believe there’s a place for both, but there’s been a shift in thinking over the years when it comes to seeing sustainable improvement in an impoverished community or issue. While many used to believe donating money was the best and only way, studies and outcomes have indicated a greater impact when there is on-the-ground partnership investing through a community development approach with job skills, empowerment for women and reinvestment in the local
economy. This is the guiding philosophy behind social enterprises like ours.
How does investing in women help solve a systematic issue?
Impacting global poverty starts with women. When you invest in a woman, you invest in her family and community, too. On average, women invest 90 percent of their income back into their families. This includes putting healthy food on the table, paying for their children to go school, or buying healthcare. Not to mention, empowering a woman with safe, nearby employment makes her less vulnerable to abuse, human trafficking, etc.
[for more information, see www.girleffect.org]
Human trafficking manifests itself in particular ways in every nation and culture, but India presents a unique situation in which we feel compelled to intervene. Despite legal prohibition, India remains a source, destination, and transit country for victims of human trafficking and is the country with the highest number of trafficked persons world-wide. About 90% of trafficking is internal, with the lowest classes of society most vulnerable, although women and girls from Nepal, Bangladesh, and other Asian countries are also trafficked through the country. It is estimated that there are 3 million sex workers in India. [And, trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation continues to be the country’s most common form of human trafficking.
[Sources: TIP REPORT 2014, unodc.org]
How does SUDARA find and begin to work with these women.
We do this by partnering with indigenous organizations to establish micro-enterprise sewing centers that offer these women a fresh start and place to heal. Also, to be clear, we do not gain employees through participation in forced rescues, raids, etc. Any women who have come to our sewing centers have done so by choice. When a woman becomes part of a SUDARA sewing center, she learns a new trade [sewing] and practices refining her craftsmanship by producing quality sleep & loungewear called PUNJAMMIES™.
Are all the ladies working in IPP sewing centers of legal age?
Absolutely. India has child labor laws similar to those in the US – individuals in most cases must be 16 years old to work. Over 95% of the women working sewing PUNJAMMIES™ are well over 18 years old, with the remaining few being over 16 years old and of legal working age.
Do you see yourself as rescuers?
The women who enter our sewing centers do so as an autonomous choice. They are deciding their own path and take pride in their independence.. They are rising above the crimes done against them and working diligently towards a better life. These women show great courage for both themselves and their families. Our role is to provide opportunities to partner with and empower each woman, but not to rescue.
How does SUDARA determine which organizations they will work with when establishing sewing center partnerships?
We are extremely slow and intentional about selecting the indigenous organizations with whom we partner in India. We always want to make sure that any organization we are establishing a sewing center partnership with is completely transparent with how they operate. We look for likeminded values such as offering a living wage [which is often higher than what would be considered fair-trade and helps guarantee more financial stability for a woman and her children.] We look for organizations who do not require or force a certain world-view upon their employees. While the majority of indigenous organizations we work with are Christian-based. They do not force those views on any of the women working there, and allow them practice their personal >beliefs without harassment or coercion.
How many women are employed by SUDARA?
As a company, we have a deep commitment to answering questions like this as authentically as possible, so please forgive the extra long answer. Providing a total number of current employees is a more complicated question than one might think. This is due to the regular amount of shifting that occurs within our sewing center partnerships on the ground in India. For anyone specifically curious, this shifting happens because a woman may only choose to stay a short time [a few weeks], while others have been so depleted of resources, support, etc that she might be a part of our community for years. For this reason, a number would have to be tallied daily. Our most accurate answer is to say that since our inception, we have employed more than 300 women in one of our sewing center partnerships throughout India. What excites us even more is that the majority of women who come to find employment with us have children. We estimate a total impact of more than 500 children as a result. This is the cycle-breaking change we are truly passionate about because it not only means these children have access to education & regular medical care, but it also means they remain connected to their mother
and are observing her break free from an otherwise life-long sentence. This affords them a completely different type of future than they would have otherwise had and is the sort of momentum that erodes systemic poverty and human objectification at the root.
How does having a secure job help women from going back into the sex trade?
Here’s the bottom line: People need to eat. Women need to feed their children. If the money runs out, a mother will most often do whatever she has to in order to feed her children. There are a number of ways a women enters the sex trade, but specifically in India, it most often boils down to lack of jobs, resources and education, which results in a woman either entering or returning to the sex trade because she simply has no other option to survive. While some women do willingly enter the trade and prefer to remain in it, we focus on those who are looking for a way out and wish to remain out. But more than just having a secure job, we are focusing on empowerment and education that give each woman a chance to develop a trade that she can rely upon long after she leaves our sewing centers.
Why does it say: Made in Guatemala on the shirt I purchased?
We source our tanks and tees from a few different places, ALL of whom are trusted for their above-the-bar manufacturing practices and who are WRAP Certified. We are committed to working only with partners who share our commitment to an ethical supply chain for our products. The particular top you have purchased was sewn in Guatemala by Bella+Canvas who manufactures tops all over the world. They bear the WRAP Gold certification and perform routine inspections in all of their global production sites. For more questions specific questions on how they produce their garments, we encourage you to contact them directly. Once Sudara receives the tops from Bella+Canvas, they are printed in the USA and sold via our online shop.
Describe the work conditions of these women. How much do the women employed by SUDARA make? Do they have benefits?
We believe in dignified, living wage employment. Our model is not based on a percentage of price per/piece. Our sewing centers in India provide wages for the women that are, on average, double the fair-trade baseline for their work. The women also have access to job training and placement services that afford them the freedom to choose their own pathways. Some become skilled tailors who open their own businesses, some choose other trades such as becoming beauticians; a few of the women have also gone on to nursing school. In addition to the living wage provided by the sewing centers, Sudara donates an above market rate premium to the sewing center partners for making Sudara products. This money is then invested in providing education for the children of the women, safe housing for those needing to escape abuse, and health and wellness services -- all of this in the context of a caring, restorative community that will help her to rebuild her life and re-integrate into a larger community. For a woman getting back on her feet, re-establishing a sense of normal daily life is a critical and significant part of lasting life-change so connection to a community of people who are not all previously trafficked is a very important factor in her moving forward and rooting herself in a new way of life.
Where did PUNJAMMIES™ get their name?
We get this question a lot and are always eager to share the story behind it because much intentionality and cultural sensitivity went into the selection of this name. For cultural/historical context, Punjab is a state in the northwest of the Republic of India which is part of the larger Punjab region spanning into present-day Pakistan. Punjabi refers to the traditional forms of dress worn throughout the region. One of the most common elements of Punjabi dress is a loose-fitting trouser which has several different names depending on whether it is worn by men or women and also depending on the type of occasion or ceremony it is worn for. [for more exhaustive explanation, see Wikipedia.com- Punjabi clothing and Punjabi people]. Over the centuries, this form of dress has extended to regions all throughout India. It was over many cups of tea with our local friends and partners in India, along with research of the etymology and introduction of pajamas into Western culture that we learned the word ‘pajamas’ is thought to have been a derivative of the word ‘punjabi.’ As a result, the name PUNJAMMIES™ emerged as a name that would pay homage to their country of origin and would come back to directly benefit every woman producing them.
Where do I purchase SUDARA products and where does my money go?
The easiest place to purchase any SUDARA product is at www.sudara.org. All proceeds from purchases are reinvested back into the business [which is what employs each woman]. Costs include staff and operations in US and India, materials such as fabric, thread, sewing equipment, development of new products etc, housing and medical care, and when applicable, school/education fees for children of women in the sewing centers. We are deeply committed to being able to help more and more women. To do that, we must constantly look for ways to grow and diversify in order to find new ways to generate sustainable jobs and bring more opportunity to India. Your purchases support this kind of continued growth.
Are PUNJAMMIES™ machine washable? What is the best way to care for my PUNJAMMIES™?
Your PUNJAMMIES™ should be handled with care and washed/dried according to the instructions printed on the inner tag. Fabric types vary based on the type of print you purchased, so while some can be washed at any temperature, others are a more delicate weave and should be laundered in cool water, and hang-dry only. When in doubt, wash your PUNJAMMIES™ in cool water and line dry as that method will result in the least wear and tear on the fabric.