January is Human Trafficking Awareness month and this week’s #WomanCrushWednesday goes out to Sarah Lance, co-founder of Sari Bari – a company dedicated to freeing women from sexual exploitation.
More than two decades ago, Sarah visited India’s red light districts as a volunteer for Missionaries of Charity, an order started by Mother Theresa. She heard the same story, over and over, from a number of different women – they all wanted another job, another way to support their families. But perhaps the most devastating story came from a teenager named Pinki, who’d been in the red light district for 10 days – her mother had died and her father was too sick to support her two younger siblings. Sarah couldn’t forget the glassy-eyed teenager – too young to have built a strong wall of protection around herself – and just knew she had to do something. A year later, Sarah returned to India with Sari Bari co-founder Kristin Keen, the two of them determined to start a business. So they did, in a tiny little room, along with three women who wanted freedom and a way out of the commercial sex trade. A year later, they moved to a larger space, and today, Sari Bari continues to grow. The company sells hand-crafted clothing, home decor products and bags, made by women who were once victims of human trafficking. Today, 14 years later, 200 women have come through the company and found a way out of the commercial sex trade. They’re also focused on prevention, employing vulnerable women or those whose daughters are vulnerable.
In 2016, Sarah won the Opus Prize for social entrepreneurship. That was an honor, but Sarah is even more honored to be known as older sister, or “Didi”, in the Sari Bari community. She’s truly a multi-talented force of nature, with just about every kind of business-related experience you can think of – product design, brand building, marketing, systems, accounting, admin – you name it, Sarah has done it. But her favorite jobs are Chief Cheerleader to women’s freedom journeys and taking care of youngsters!
Here’s something Sarah would love for you to consider: Just about every purchase you make has a human being behind it. Use your economic power for good.