The clothing that we wear is more than just something that's ours - it's something that someone made for us. There are faces, hands, lives - there is a story - behind everyone's clothing. Sometimes it's a story of exploitation, sometimes it's a story of empowerment. Either way, we can't look at clothes as merely ours anymore. When we look at our clothes, we see faces.
Through our work and our travels in the world, we have come across another type of story. It's the kind of story that should never have been written in the first place. And as we've listened to this type of story told by the people who have lived it, it's changed us. We know the stories of young women who have been trafficked, we know the stories of young women who believe they have no other way but to sell their bodies.
We wanted to start a business that would bridge these two types of stories: that would produce ethical clothes but that also would be a part of the solution to human trafficking. Our impact might be small in scale - but we believe changing one life matters, we believe going after even just one is worth it. This is for them. This business is for them.
We're not the best, the most talented, or the most qualified. But we know we need to try - that no matter where we are at, we need to keep going.
The production of our apparel that takes place in our production partners’ centers in Cambodia, Indonesia, and Nepal is the heartbeat of SHEMA. When we started SHEMA, we endeavored to create a company whose day to day operations would help to provide sustainable employment for survivors of human trafficking - and that is precisely what is happening when we make our apparel. Our partners work with a variety of demographics - not solely survivors of trafficking. Our partners not only pay living wages, they create safe work-spaces full of dignity and free of discrimination. They engage in a variety services towards those they employ including access to health care, counseling, and life-skill courses. The apparel SHEMA makes are created in centers that empower at the same time they employ, bringing dignity and hope to those free from trafficking and those most marginalized by society.
Our partners in Cambodia exclusively employ survivors of sex trafficking in the center that produces our SHEMA tees. Those who are freed from brothels and trafficking situations are given robust rehabilitation, aftercare, and counseling services and later are given the opportunity to earn a living in the employment center where they also receive on-the-job training, childcare, healthcare, continuing academic education and counseling, and are paid 3-4 times the amount of an average garment worker in Cambodia.
Our Cambodian partners also are incredibly active in anti-trafficking efforts within Cambodia through effective prevention, rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration programs. Simply put, they are our heroes.
Our production partner in Nepal employs those most marginalized by society to fresh starts and fulfilled lives - and where the SHEMA hoodies are produced. This center is a social enterprise, which means that they gauge their success by the lives they impact. It also means that all of their profits are reinvested to further the social mission of creating training and job opportunities for survivors of abuse, exploitation and those discriminated against because of caste, religion or disease. Here, employees receive fair living wages; literacy classes, job-skills and life-skills training; health care; and employer matched savings, all in a positive work environment. All employees are eligible for school scholarships for their children. In this way, they are empowering the next generation to become less vulnerable to exploitation and to break free from the cycle of poverty.
The sustainable a proven impact of our Nepalese partners efforts makes them such an instrumental piece of the SHEMA supply chain. We love getting to work with them.
In Indonesia, our partner’s center is still being developed toward becoming a SHEMA production partner along with their programming. We have purchased machines for this center and are invested in working with marginalized and at-risk demographics in this context. They are a beacon of hope to those they currently support and work with and we are excited when we will able to offer SHEMA apparel produced with this group. They also have the capacity and dream to scale production efforts in Indonesia which simply means impacting more lives. Those on the ground and those they work with are a continued source of inspiration to us as a team and remind us to keep going.
We believe in Love and that business should be a catalyst for change.