As you might know we always support Basha around Christmas-time by donating part of our profit. We truly and deeply admire their work and although I have told about them on instagram a lot and written a blogpost about their gorgeous work before, I think it is time to let an insider tell more about them. So let me introduce you to Yvet Breedveld, my dear friend who volunteered for Basha while living in Bangladesh:
Barbara aka Bobbinhood and I go waaaay back! We joined the same fashion brand around the same time, Barbara as an award-winning fashion designer, me as a (probably annoyingly ambitious) intern. We worked together and became super good friends along the way!
I ended up moving to Bangladesh, working for well-known Dutch (fashion) brands for six years. These years taught me a LOT about the textile industry – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Above all it taught me how complicated this industry really is. More on that in a future blog perhaps, because for now I would like to tell you about an amazing example of The Good: Basha Boutique and Friends of Basha.
one the artisans in Basha’s production center in Dhaka
When I first laid eyes on Basha Boutique’s products, the colourful blankets made of vintage sari cloth immediately caught my eye. Upon closer inspection the straight, hand-stitched lines made my craftsmanship-loving heart swell! Next to these embroidered blankets, called kanthas, I saw chunky knits made of strips of sari cloth, handmade jewellery in different metal/sari combos… I loved it all! But that’s not even The Good part yet.
Kanthas are made of pre-worn, pre-loved sari cloth. Damaged spots in the cloth are patched up, reminding us of the previous life these saris have lived. The artisan embroiders her name on the label that is attached to the kantha blanket. This way you as a consumer are reminded that there is an actual person behind the product. On bashaboutique.com you can find all artisans and leave them a message!
It turns out that Basha is a social enterprise that helps women at risk and survivors of trafficking by providing them with dignified work, and sustainable livelihood. Women that have often been through horrible situations, gain job skills and get the opportunity to develop into entrepreneurs and leaders in a healthy, healing, supportive environment. This last part is incredibly important. Women that have been forced into prostitution, child marriage or forced labour are eager to build a better life for themselves and their children, but this is not an easy transition to make. They need time to heal and process before they can enter the workforce and start building up a new life. In order to provide this specific support, Friends of Basha was created. This non profit organization networks with organizations serving women in (legal) brothels, floating sex work, and repatriation of women who were trafficked abroad. Friends of Basha is able to offer a training and rehabilitation programme, providing counselling, psychiatric care, life skill training, preparation for employment and even safe housing for those who need it. Their children are welcomed too, and receive education, school support and nutritious food. Once they are ready, the women are given the opportunity to be employed at Basha Boutique. As they take on full-time employment in an environment that values and respects them and fosters their entrepreneurial spirit, the cycle is broken.
I was introduced to Robin, the founder of Basha, who has been working relentlessly over the past 9 years, building Basha Boutique and Friends of Basha and growing it from 13 women in a small flat in Dhaka, to an organisation that employs more than 150 women across 5 different production centers throughout Bangladesh. What an inspiration!
Left: This is Rani, an artisan working at Basha’s production center in Dhaka. Working at Basha she is able to provide for herself and her three sons, something that was previously impossible to do for her. Right: more kanthas
On a trip home, I brought back a baby blanket for Barbara’s littlest and told her all about Basha, Friends of Basha, and Robin. Barbara loved the kantha blanket and the story behind it as much as I did and decided to financially support Friends of Basha with her annual anti-Black Friday campaign.
After leaving Bangladesh, I have stayed in touch with Robin and with Basha, supporting where I can with social media and campaigns. When I learned about how the Corona crisis is affecting Bangladesh and specifically the women that Basha supports, I asked Barbara for help.
As many other countries, Bangladesh has been deeply affected by the pandemic. The country is in lockdown, and in a country where the majority of people live hand to mouth, working in informal sectors, the economic effects are absolutely devastating. However, women working in prostitution are most likely hardest hit. When the countrywide lockdown was announced, the brothels were locked down, with the women and children inside. Without food, without money, without ways to make money and unable to leave. Since the start of the lockdown, Friends of Basha has been organizing food runs to the brothels, providing these women and children with the essentials needed to survive. As horrible as the situation is, the silver lining is that there is now an opportunity to connect with the women in the brothels, and offer them a different perspective to life. This is a unique opportunity to show them that there is an alternative for them beyond the walls of the brothel. With the lockdown continuing, the efforts are being extended to a group of 70 ‘floating’ women and 100 transgender women that are not locked in, but are still left without any way of earning an income and providing for themselves at the moment.
Basha food run in one of the brothels in Bangladesh
The work that Friends of Basha is doing is so important, and you can help them continue doing it! By purchasing one of the downloads that Bobbinhood, Lynn Cosyn, Betsy Petersen, Olya Tsikhanchuk and Axelle Rose Zwartjes have designed.
As you know we offer a lot of FREE printing templates on our website, we thought we would make an exception by teaming up with 4 amazing illustrators for a PAID template. They did not only make an ultra awesome illustration you can print they also agreed for all profit to go to Basha to directly help vulnerable women and their children in Bangladesh, so gogogogogogogo and download that template!!!!
There is so much more to tell about Basha – the cultural significance of the products they make, the amazing stories from women that have turned their life around and flourished through Basha.. Follow Basha Boutique and Friends of Basha on social media or check out their websites to learn more! bashaboutique.com and friendsofbasha.org