For the past ten years, I’ve dedicated my life to helping women break free from the sex trade. For five years, I worked with women in Kolkata, India and am now in the United States of America, specifically Jacksonville, Florida. I run an organization called Rethreaded, whose mission is to love those affected by the sex trade through fostering relationships and life giving community At Rethreaded we want to break the cycle of the sex trade by offering viable work to women on a global and local scale. Globally, we have partnered with over eleven companies, including Sari Bari, who offer women freedom through employment. We take our profits from these sales and reinvest them into our local company in Jacksonville. In this arm of Rethreaded, we transform donated T-shirts into new products like scarves and stuffed animals.
Kolkata and Jacksonville are two very different places; from their cultures, to their food, languages and ways of dressing. Despite these differences, what I have learned is that, regardless of location, the effects of the sex trade on women are the same. No matter how you entered the trade, your background, your age, the color of your skin, the language you speak, the sex trade steals your worth, value and hope. I have had women from opposite corners of the globe say to me, “Why should I try to leave? This is my fate. I am worth nothing.” In both places I have met women whose hearts have hardened to Hope for anything different. In Kolkata, a 16-year-old girl told me she had no heart. In Jacksonville, a woman sobbed into my arms because of all that she had lost and the shame she carried. It’s the same.
There is something in us as women that longs to be seen as beautiful, relational, tender and mysterious. When this view is violated, it changes the way we see ourselves. I know most women around the world can relate to this, regardless of locale.
But I have also seen how Hope can change the landscape of our hearts no matter where we are. I have found that when we form communities of love based on healing and allowing women opportunities to grow into who they were created to be, Hope is restored. What better place to form these communities than within a business? Business offers us a chance to be in relationship with each other and influence not only the people we work with, but our communities and world as well. I have seen that transformation first hand. In Kolkata, one of the women I walked with into Sari Bari on her first day wouldn’t engage with anyone and is now thriving in a leadership position. At Rethreaded, one of our employees said to me “I have never been around people who loved me so much.”
Business has been an amazing place to foster these life-changing communities. Women are given economic independence, placed in a safe and loving community, empowered to be who they were created to be, and are then able to help the ones that are still held captive. Women at Sari Bari in Kolkata are making products that we resell and use to give freedom to women in Jacksonville. That is Hope made tangible. When women are fully alive and living into their gifts the world changes. That is why I have dedicated my life to seeing this kind of transformational Hope that happens through business. With every bag, stitch of clothing and piece of jewelry we make and sell, Hope becomes tangible. A new story is sewn for us all.
Kristin Keen, Rethreaded’s founder, lived and worked for five years in Kolkata, India, encountering the life-stealing effects of the area’s sex trade on a daily basis. Together wither friends Sarah Lance, Kristin helped co-found a business that could offer these women a safe haven. Today, Sari Bari is a thriving business that employs more than 75 people in Kolkata who create beautiful handmade blankets and other products from traditional fabrics.
Upon her return to Jacksonville, Kristin felt called to fight the sex trade on a local level, and Rethreaded was born. Beginning by forming relationship with women on the street and making prison visits, she knew the biggest need was for a safe, supportive work environment where these women could earn money while learning a skill and experiencing continued healing through community. Working in partnership with the City Rescue Mission, Rethreaded hired its first full-time employee in November 2012.
You can see what Rethreaded has been up to at:
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