Today we celebrate 8 years of New Life in the Making. Yesterday I spent a good part of my day trying to take it in, taking breaks to sit on the floor to talk with the women, in-between solving a production crisis, then again escaping the work to hold babies —I was chatting with “Prianka”, the mommy, who has worked for us for almost 5 years as she was pulling up her blanket, just finished, I asked do you feel proud when you finish a blanket…because it is truly beautiful what you do. She said, “I feel peace.” Ah peace. Sari Bari is a place of peace no doubt.
Eight years of countless freedom birthdays began with the first on February 20, 2006. What began on that day is something that has become far more than any one of us who remember that day could have imagined. Three women have become almost 100. Everyday is hope embodied, enfleshed, lived out in the red light areas of Kalighat and Sonagacchi as the women of Sari Bari leave their rooms and instead of selling their bodies, they stitch beauty with their hands and embody a prophetic hope for the girls and women who still finds themselves working in the lanes of the red light areas.
Their trafficking and trauma stories compelled us as a community into the area of prevention and now we can say that there are 38 women who themselves and their daughters may never have to find themselves on the doorstep of a brothel. And prevention has found its champion in Sari’s Bari’s first staff member and the big brother to us all. Upendra Prasad Saha will lead the way, we know few better men in the world, as Sari Bari expands more deeply into the area of 24 South Paraganas in 2014-2015, to provide employment to women vulnerable to trafficking.
There have been rivers of tears both angry and healing. And if you could bottle the laughter that has been shared within the walls of Sari Bari and then uncork it, it might be years before the laughter comes to an end. We have shared the table so to speak, sitting around on the floor of Sari Bari eating and sharing our lunches, our lives, our everything, at least a couple thousand times in the last 8 years.
We have lost friends and sisters to cancer, AIDS, violence, sudden death and to the hard to escape emotional bondage with which the sex trade holds its prey. Yet, our memory is long, we don’t forget the ones we have lost and we still hope for the return of the ones who did not find their way the first time on freedom’s path. We wait with Hope, sometimes on a thread, sometimes with abundant expectation. Hope works either way.
Sari Bari has grown from being able to stitch a sari blanket and to being able to stitch 55 thousand square feet of sari material (yep, that’s a football field) for products ranging from blankets to bags to scarves in the last year. We have grown in partnership from a couple of “bideshi’s” (foreigners) and a couple of “deshi’s” (locals) to a leadership primarily made up of the women who have found freedom with the space that Sari Bari was created to offer.
The world has changed; we have been changed by the freedom journey as we share it together. If we may be so bold as to say, Sari Bari has changed our lives, maybe even the world, at least our little part of it. We have been taught to celebrate and mourn, we have been held and hugged, we have danced and created, we have birthed and buried, we have eaten till our bellies are stretched tight and our hearts are overflowing. Lives have been changed, freedom has been found, leaders have been developed, SB women’s children are graduating from high school, entering college, holding jobs their mother’s could never have dreamed and yes, there is still more to be done, more women who need the opportunity to find freedom and so we press on, dream on, hold on. Yep, the world’s changed in our neck of the woods and still needs changing, thankful for the last 8 years and looking forward to the next eight!