Updates from Nepal
At the border of Nepal-India, Karuna's job is to watch for suspicious passerbys. She works for our nonprofit partner. Karuna has an important job. She boldly approaches probable victims of human trafficking - a rampant problem in Nepal. Here's an actual dialogue with a girl named Divya.
Karuna: Excuse me, please wait a moment. Where are you going?
Karuna: India? How old are you?
Karuna: Who are you traveling with? What is your name? Would you like to come with me for a minute?
The two women walk into a wooden shaft, that is the counseling room.
Karuna: That’s a pretty dress, who bought it for you?
Divya: I just got it.
Karuna: Your mom buys you nice clothes.
Divya: Auntie bought it.
Karuna: Oh, your auntie is traveling with you? Why is she not with you? How long have you known your auntie? Did any strangers visit with you on your journey? Do you know your auntie's name?
Divya is unable to answer.
Karuna: Where you are going is not where you will end up. I know, because I have been through the same thing. Come with me, I will take you to a safe place.
That day, Divya was taken to a safe home. They later found out that Auntie was not a registered person in Nepal. Yet, Divya’s journey to the border came with abuse along the way and psychological manipulation from Auntie. The traffickers deceived and bribed Divya’s parents to take her into India for a better future. But today, Divya is happy to be back at home and in school.
Karuna is a staff member of Our Daughters International, and she counsels roughly 550 potential trafficking victims per year. Karuna herself once was a victim to an “Auntie.” She was treated like a commodity for a long time until she was able to escape.
Karuna’s story is now her ministry. She is a graduate of the Social Leadership School of Our Daughters International, and is more than an overcomer – she is a daughter, and a leader!
*Names have been changed.
Shop The KARUNA slub jersey tee:
I am Maya. I am 18 years old and am from the Eastern part of Nepal. I was born and brought up in a normal family. Our family’s income was mostly dependent on agriculture. My parents worked hard to provide for every basic need I had until I reached to 12th grade. Growing up, I was a little introvert and always felt uncomfortable speaking to older people, I was especially so scared of my father, although he was a loving man. As my days went on, I was happy. I was still in school but somehow, I could not stop dreaming about wanting to stand up on my own two feet.
I had a friend in school who lived in a village nearby, she would visit my home often as so would I. While visiting and hanging out with her, I became very close to her uncle. I felt comfortable talking to him. He suddenly became like family to me. In my free time, I started visiting him often, and went to learn karate with him. I just wanted to know about the game, and I did not know enough to play as a competitor. As time went by, he told me about opportunities in India, about great competitions that I could participate in. He told me I was good enough to compete and that he would take me to participate in the competition. I did not feel ready for it, but he convinced me otherwise. Despite of my reluctance, I decided to go with him. I told my mother, but I was too terrified to tell my father. I was scared that he would not accept my decision, or give me the permission to go.
As I began my journey with him, he told me we had to cross the border to go into India. It did not seem like a problem to me, but he asked me if I would cross it alone, I did not understand it at first but I agreed. He told me he would meet me at the other side, and after that we would board a train to Delhi. While I was crossing the border, I was stopped by the Our Daughters staff in Jhapa. They questioned my whereabouts and asked me why I was crossing the border. They were curious as to why I was alone if I was going for such a huge competition. I told them about my uncle and the competition I was participating in, but they couldn’t find him waiting for me at the other side.
Our Daughters counseled me and informed me about the high risk of trafficking in and out of our country. They referred my case to the Nepal police, they later on came to find out that he had no proper documentation or proof that we were headed to India for a competition. We later came to find out that his true intentions were to traffic me. I was shocked at the false hopes he presented for me. With the help of Our Daughters, I registered a case on human trafficking against him.
After that, I decided to move back home, but the stigma in the society would not let me adjust back to my normal life. They would question me and my character. They called me names, and made my family feel ashamed of having me back home. I contacted the sisters at Our Daughters after that, I told them about my situation at home. They suggested I come to one of their safe homes, and told me about different opportunities I had at learning skills and training at the office.
As I graduated from the safe home, I moved on to the training center where I was able to learn the skill of tailoring. With an additional training, I was informed of the opportunity to work at the garments factory in Kathmandu. As I arrived there, I was in shock, I met so many other sisters like me that had the same stories as me, but they were free. They were living a dignified life working and earning for themselves and their family. My parents are now proud of what I do, and I send them monthly allowance.
Shop The MAYA tee:
Inspired by this sister, The Maya tee is made by Maya and her sisters at the sewing center. This striped tee has a perfect relaxed cut.
Back in 2011, Kwina* was learning sewing skills through our nonprofit partners in Nepal. Despite a traumatic past, she was hopeful that life could be good again. Instead, Kwina was living in a safe house because her family didn't accept her back. They believed that bad karma would transfer on them because of what happened to Kwina. She tried again, and again, and again, but her family's hearts were hardened.
As Elegantees started our business partnership with Our Daughters, she became one of our first seamstresses. Kwina was now making an income and became independent. Earning more money than she needed, she sent money also to her family. In Nepali culture, it's a rare occurrence for a woman to earn and provide. Her family was so shocked in a good way that they not only accepted their daughter back as their own, they also rejected the idea of bad karma and now believe in grace!
Today you'll see Kwina still making your elegantees. She and her family are better than they ever were. That is grace, and it's radical.
*Name has been changed to Kwina for protection. Photo is not the same seamstress.
Shop The KWINA tee:
I am Dipa. I am from a district in Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. I belong to very deprived family. My mother worked a job as she nurtured us. My father was a taxi driver. One day, while he was driving, he accidentally killed a man on the road. Then, my father went to prison. That was a very difficult season for my mother to helplessly raise us. My mother remarried, but my step father was lost in the earthquake.
As time passed, another man came in my mother’s life who was five years younger. He worked with my mother and he influenced her. He said that he was single and moved into our home for four months, living with us. One day, he proposed to me that I marry to him. I was shocked and I refused his proposal, but he gave a threat to me. He forcefully put me into the taxi and took me into the hotel. He sexually abused me. Next day, he took me into a house and I was lost. My mother searched everywhere for me, but could not find me.
My mother reached out to Our Daughters (the non-profit partner to Elegantees). They coordinated with police, and I was rescued from the miserable condition. With the support of Our Daughters, I registered the rape case against him at district court. Now, he is in police custody. My mother is a single women so I want to support her future. I saw much misery of life that my mother faced with loneliness. My heart is broken. Now, my eyes are opened and I am in a safe home for learning skills development. I am 15 years old, and am very happy to stay in Our Daughters safe home. I am preparing myself for better future.
Shop the Dipa tee:
Sixteen months ago, a new seamstress started a job at the sewing center. Her name is Mira, and she is 19 years old. At Elegantees, our passion is to do more than design with intention to provide your new favorite clothing item. We make these clothes in Nepal in order to restore lives.
My mother gave birth to three daughters, but most of Nepal thinks girls have little or no worth. My father abandoned us and married another woman for a chance to conceive a son. My sisters and mom were neglected, even by our maternal family. Things got worse when Mom was nearly murdered by my uncle. Her wound from the stabbing made her body too weak to work hard. We depended on others to give us a place to live, but we were a burden to them. I didn’t go to school for many years. Instead, I worked a job to help us survive.
Some of my friends wanted to go to India. They told me to go with them to have a better life, and I was very hopeful of that. When I crossed the border, Our Daughters inquired with me. They helped me realize that going to India was a trap for sex trafficking. Our Daughters protected me and gave me skills to sew garments. I started taking classes for completion of Grade 8, and then was hired to work as a seamstress and make elegantees. I am very thankful for the chance to study and have a good job.
Shop the Mira tee:
Inspired by this overcomer, it is a cute basic you'll wear over and over again. At a reasonable price, it's possible to support our work through fashion.
We choose to work in Nepal.
It started as a desire to use fashion to fight human trafficking. Little did we know, when Elegantees founder, Katie, met Ramesh, the founder of a nonprofit that rescues thousands of girls each year, that this would come together. Nepal is an impoverished nation with a local perception that a girl child is worth less than a boy child, so young women disappear far too often. The trafficking of girls from Nepal into India for forced prostitution is perhaps one of the busiest slave trafficking routes anywhere in the world, with estimated 5,000-10,000 Nepali women and girls trafficked to India each year. Sometimes, they travel farther than India, and end up in the Middle East.
Employment has an impact on the respect of women. A well-paying job is a gift to bring hope for a life free of violence, poverty, and vulnerability to harm. Elegantees' mission is to pay a living wage to as many women our sales allow us to provide for.
Our nonprofit partner:
Photo: Our Daughters International
In Nepal, Sita and her mother have sacrificed a lot to care for each other. Sita's vulnerability to help her mother-in-need almost led her into the hands of traffickers.
I grew up in eastern Nepal and watched my mother's hardships. Before I was born, my mother was forced to get married with her aunt’s husband. There was a large age gap, so my father passed away when I was little. My mother faced lots of trouble to raise us. She worked as a housekeeper, but hardly managed to buy food for us. We relied on second hand clothing, and were just living day to day since it was impossible to go to school.
As the eldest daughter of my mother, I could understand all the suffering she has faced. So I decided to go to India for a job with my relatives. My mother wasn’t happy in my decision, but I wanted to wipe away her tears. While crossing the border, I was informed from Our Daughters (our nonprofit partner) of the risk of human trafficking in India. They suggested to me instead to join them in a safe home’s skill development training. I could then earn money safely in own country. Our Daughters saved me from the risk of becoming sold to labor or sex traffickers, and they helped me to be an independent woman.
Sita is on our waiting list.
Sita has since lived in a safe home, and getting good food and clothing. She's completed job skill training. We'd like to advance Sita's sewing skills, and invite her to work in our sewing center with an income that can support her family too. There are hundreds of women in Nepal like Sita desiring to work. We hire each new seamstresses, one at a time. Thank you for supporting this story of hope for Sita, and many more women to come!
Shop the Sita tee:
The Sita tee is a twist front basic at a reasonable price. Made in organic cotton, and cut/sewn with fair wages. Each tee is lovingly made by our seamstresses. Click on an image below to browse.
(Seamstress shown in photo is not Sita. She is another woman who is making The SITA tee, a twist front tee we named after her).