All Photographs By Jon and Moch Photography
Back around the time I was a freshman in college in 2005, a professor of mine named Charles Lee and his associate Greg Russinger started a nonprofit called JustOne, an “awareness campaign” for three global issues: poverty, orphans, and human trafficking. One evening my school hosted an informational event put on by Lee and Russinger on human trafficking. What exactly is that? It was the first time I had heard of it.
Human trafficking has grabbed the attention of people all around the world, from CEOs to students, artists to the FBI, and entrepreneurs to moms and dads, awaking those of us who’ve never known such crimes and it has motivated businesses, churches, and governments to join the struggle for freedom.
During the event we watched a short film that briefly explained what human trafficking is, how it works, and why it happens. Emotionally moved – and it’s hard not to be – friends and I plunged headlong into a movement, wanting to do something but not entirely sure what.
We vowed to never purchase clothing from companies waist deep in slavery. We vowed to give and support and lay down our lives. We vowed to change the world. And we meant to. But life happened, again and again like it does, and I put those vows and passions on the back burner, got busy and “forgot”.
This is an often-yet-unfortunate response after an initial introduction to this nefarious underworld. A fire is set inside of us yet we fumble for action in the dark, running but going nowhere. And no wonder. It’s hard to know what to do and how to respond.
Human trafficking is the multi-billion-dollar industry of modern slavery, for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation, 26% of its 45.8 million victims being children. And it’s believed to be the third largest criminal activity in the world, with 58% of those in slavery in India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Uzbekistan.
Most of us want to do something meaningful to help, but it’s hard to know where to start. That brings me to Shannon Keith. The founder and CEO of Sudara, a lifestyle brand driven to advocate for and empower women who have been rescued from or are at risk of human trafficking by providing employment, Shannon has taken “help” to a whole different level. It was in 2005 when Shannon went to India for the first time and discovered the horrible situations of many young women who lacked the education, resources, and skills that could secure them against the deceptions of local pimps and family pressure.
Upon returning she gathered the opinions of friends and family, finalizing her solution to offer legitimate employment opportunities to women. Since its inception, Sudara has had one focus: empower women to live in freedom from sex-slavery through safe, sustainable living-wage employment. Ten years of stitch-by-stitch freedom.
Sudara started sewing their punjammies, which I assume is a play on punjabi and pajamas. Ancient Punjabi was a region of northern India and eastern Pakistan and the men and women wore flowing cotton clothing to their knees with scarves over their left shoulders and under their right. This was Punjabi clothing. Punjammies are Sudara’s Punjabi-inspired lounge pants and rightly 100% cotton.
Sudara also sells this very cool Freedom Tee for men. Seven languages yet a single message. You guessed it, Freedom! Freedom for the bound. Freedom for the hurting. Freedom for the women and the children. Freedom for the slave. This shirt reminds me of the freedom I have been given and the freedom that others have had taken from them. It reminds me that mind-numbingly slouching my life away with inaction only enables the criminality to slither on.
So no matter where you land on the spectrum, if you’re brand new to learning about human trafficking or well-versed in it and taking steps to love your neighbors abroad, Sudara is a shining example and a company doing things right, then some.
If you would like to know more, I recommend the book Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery by Siddharth Kara, a former investment banker at Merrill Lynch who has become one of the world’s leading experts on human trafficking and contemporary slavery. And if you have any resources that you’ve found helpful comment below. We’d love to hear about them.
Note: Thank you, Sudara, for gifting us the Freedom Tee for review. For the sake of transparency, we were not compensated for this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are our own!