By Julia Fisher and Alfredo Hernandez
Lack of consumer awareness prevents societal progress.
American consumers are aware that most of their products come from foreign countries, but they do not truly understand the implications of their purchases, which often prolong social issues needing reform.
A lack of consumer awareness perpetuates problems both abroad and at home. Even when we think we are “buying better outcomes” by supporting domestic or charitable companies, we often fail to see the effects of our purchases.
Take the well-known brand of TOMS shoes, whose company slogan is “One for One” because it donates a pair of canvas shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased.
While the company is undoubtedly charitable, the “buy one, give one” business model does not get to the root of problems it is trying to fix– it simply covers them up. TOMS gives shoes to people living in third world countries who, because they walk around barefoot most of the time, have a high likelihood of getting infections, parasites and diseases.
The TOMS motto aims to eliminate the problem, which sounds like a great idea. However, with the money the company makes off of each pair of shoes, they could build concrete streets and latrines to eradicate the problem entirely, instead of buying shoes for an impoverished community that would alleviate the problem for about two years until the shoes wear out.
We’re not writing to bash the TOMS philosophy or business model. The company has helped thousands of impoverished children and adults. However, they could be doing it better. Enter Sudara, a clothing business based in India that hires women who have been sex-trafficked so they have a steady income and do not have to return to trafficking to make a living.
India has some of the highest rates of human and sex trafficking in the world, with Kamathipura in Mumbai and Sonagachi in Kolkatta being two of the largest Red Light Districts. Although operating a brothel in a public place is illegal in India, prostitution is tolerated and even regulated.
The women working in the brothels are often drugged and transported to the district without their consent, or they are born into the brothel and have no means of leaving because they are trapped in a cycle of poverty and brutality. India’s Red Light Districts epitomize human slavery.
Sudara hires women from these Red Light Districts and teaches them the skills necessary to become seamstresses. They also provide safe housing, medical care and education for both the women and the women’s children, giving them the environment and tools necessary to escape the cycle of poverty and prostitution found in the brothels.
Sudara’s products, inspired by the local culture, are a mix of traditional Indian and American-style clothes.
Its line of stylish, loose-fitting, loungewear pants called “Punjammies” combines the name of the traditional dress worn in northwest India, known as Punjabi, with the western name for comfortable clothing– pajamas.
Sudara’s method of targeting a specific group of women who have been sex-trafficked and providing sustainable employment at a growing company gives the women a permanent way out of the inhuman environment they lived in.
Sudara stitches a wound by actively combating a social justice issue and permanently healing the victims it hires. Companies such as TOMS, which temporarily fix a penetrating problem, are simply bandaging a deep cut which will only get infected if left untreated.