At IPP, we value open dialogue. I wanted to take a moment to share some common misconceptions we encounter about our work in India and mission of creating pathways of freedom for women escaping sex slavery. The subject of sex slavery and human trafficking can be such a polarizing one that we often need to clarify for people who we are and how we operate. We welcome the dialogue and hope after reading this, if bolsters even more confidence and support for the work we are so passionately engaged in.
It’s important to me that I begin by clarifying that our company exists because I witnessed firsthand a problem that impacted my life in such a powerful way that I had to take action. After travelling to India and visiting one of its many red light districts, I had the opportunity to meet some of the women employed within the brothels. I heard story after story about modern day slavery and women – starting at young, tender, impressionable ages – being forced into the sex trafficking trade in India. I could not be a passive bystander – I had to do something to advocate for these women, which is why I founded International Princess™ Project. However, I also soon discovered that without a new occupation, these women who had entered the sex trade either as orphans picked up by pimps, or young mothers trying to care for their families, or sold into the sex trade by their families, would scarcely survive outside of the brothels. We created PUNJAMMIES™ as a product that would provide empowerment and employment for these women, generating an alternate source of income that would allow them to care for themselves and their children. What began with just 6 women has grown to more than 150! That’s 150 people no longer forced into the sex trafficking trade and who, instead, spend their days in a clean, healthy, nurturing and loving sewing facility surrounded by a community of women who care for each other.
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.
“The opportunities I had for a future were so limited before I came to know about the work that IPP is doing with Harvest India. Now I am living with dignity, and there are so many opportunities ahead of me. I’m so thankful to be a part of this family.” – Sabita
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 been through great trauma in their life. They entered the brothels through one of three ways: they were trafficked, born into it and then coerced, or impoverished and forced to repay never-ending debts.
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.
Since my time with IPP I have received so much love, peace and joy. This opportunity is helping me to stand on my own feet and teaching me to trust others again. I have hope for the first time in years.”- Dalaj
How do you find women who have been freed from the sex trade?
We partner with indigenous organizations that have a long-standing presence within the red-light areas of India. IPP does not conduct raids. Laxmi, is an example of how women (and their children) come into an IPP sewing center. Laxmi married very young and was sold by her husband to a brothel owner in Kamathipura. She was beaten and, like many of the ladies who are in the sewing centers, felt like there was no way out. She knew that if she escaped home to her family she would be told she was not welcome because she had brought shame on herself and her family. She later gave birth to a little boy and was determined not to let him grow up in the red light district. Health concerns led her and her son to attend a clinic where she heard about International Princess™ Project’s sewing centers. IPP’s partners were then able to help them escape to one of the sewing centers at Ashagram, where she works today.
To say I am inspired by the courage of these women is an understatement. With every new story I encounter of women looking for a way out the sex trade they feel trapped in, my passion grows for finding sustainable, safe jobs for them to transition into. We thank you for your continued support. Should you have any questions about our work or what we do, please email us at email@example.com
With love, Shannon
Founder, International Princess™ Project