From the US to India: Shannon Keith's journey to help women victims of sex trafficking
Shannon Keith grew up in California and finished her studies in Boston. With a successful career in corporate sales, she was content with her life as the way it was. That changed when she came to India and visited Mumbai, its red lights district, in particular, a few years back.
Shannon could not tolerate the sufferings of women who were trafficked and forced into prostitution according to Polka Cafe. In her words,
I listened to story after story of young girls being sold into the sex trade by their families, orphans picked up off the street by pimps, and even young mothers just trying to get enough money to feed their children. Many were held against their will. Others were trapped by economic poverty.
Even when some of them tried to escape, they had to return into that life because of the social stigma attached to it. On the one hand, they were not educated or skilled. On the other hand, even if they were, no one was ready to give an opportunity to those women.
Shannon understood the importance and the necessity of giving them a chance, a source of livelihood and how it could alter the status quo. This was in 2005 and she has been working towards that goal ever since.
She is the founder and CEO of Sudara, a social enterprise that aims at training the women to stitch and the products they stitch are sold in many parts of the world.
The women Shannon helps include the ones who were rescued from trafficking and the ones who are in the danger of being trafficked. Even when they do not want to learn stitching, she partners with other organisations, aiming at imparting any kind of skill training. This, in turn, would make them ready for the employment.
Shannon does not have a background in fashion or textile industry. Talking about that in an interview with Forbes, she said,
Quality control of our patterns and sizing was a huge issue at the beginning. I did not have a fashion or pattern-making background so this was me and my friends with sewing machines trying to make prototypes and get our pajamas US market ready. We all had big hearts, but not a lot of skill, there was a lot of trial and error when it came to getting our quality right.
However, the team at Sudara has come a long way from being a non-profit organisation to a social enterprise that is thriving successfully without any funding or investment from the outside.