Those of you who know me know that I’ve got a restless desire to be involved with helping provide sustainability for women who’ve been caught in sex trafficking. Specifically in Kolkata, India. You may also know that I’ve been in contact with Monique Shaw who lives with her family in Kolkata and has an outreach to the women who live in the brothels.
To others of you, this might be your first peek at a whole different side of me. So let me just go ahead and introduce you to what REALLY makes me tick.
I first contacted Monique a couple of years ago. (quick aside: HOW I found her is a story in itself – many months of research and sending out emails. Maybe I’ll tell you about it sometime. Quite a miracle, really, considering where she and I live and considering I’d never met her before. Ask me about it sometime. I love to share that story.) The bullet points of the proposal I presented to Monique in my first email to her were basically this: I want to assist in the rescue and support of women and children who’ve been trafficked and help provide them with a means for sustainability. Would buying handmade items from the survivors and re-selling them to the North American market be a way I could support what you’re doing in Kolkata?
Monique responded with a resounding YES! In fact, she’d just been trying to come up with a creative way to help provide funds for the education and freedom of the women she’s gotten to know over the years since she arrived.
What a lovely coincidence? Maybe. But I think it’s more than just a coincidence when pieces snap into place so perfectly like this. Especially when the pieces are literally oceans apart. I believe there’s a bigger heart than ours that beats for the justice and freedom of humanity.
Since our first email conversation Monique and I have been working towards a partnership. Things are not easy for her. The process is a slow and difficult one as she works towards removing the willing women and girls from the brothels and covering them with safety. She is educating them and teaching them lifeskills so they will be able to become independent and take care of themselves and not feel like life at the brothel is the only option for them. And she is also teaching them to make jewelry.
So this is where I come in. Once they have a supply of finished products, I will sell them here, 100% of the purchase price going directly back to Kolkata. Monique currently has between 4-6 women she is training so hopefully I will be able to order some of their items soon. In the meantime I’ve gotten the ball rolling by opening an Etsy shop with some of my own designs. Each piece of the Words of Freedom jewelry is inspired by the earthy, Elemental theme in my MG fantasy, SMUDGE’S MARK, and displays a word of freedom: love, hope, dream, create, joy. Twenty-five percent of the purchase price of each item will go to Monique to help support the education of the women she already has in her care.
Ultimately, I’d like to one day join Monique in Kolkata and live among these beautiful people for a few weeks and talk to them, get the know them, and learn from them. I wish I could be on the ground with her and share life with these women like she does. One day. But in the meantime, I’m going to do what I can from here.