Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sari Bari - amazing blog, amazing merchandise

Sari Bari is a small company operating in Kolkata (Calcutta), India. It was the result of inspired, saintly women from the Western world living within the abject poverty of the streets of Kolkata, looking for a way to help the sex-trade workers in their adoptive neighbourhood.

Sari Bari's vision statement:
Sari Bari seeks the sustainable restoration of red light communities and the prevention of the exploitation of women and children in the commercial sex trade.
I don't have much to add, as I think their blog says it all. Follow this link to their blog - the last entry alone was enough to grab my interest.

Here's some more from their 'history' section:
Sari Bari opened in 2006, after four years of steady presence in the red light areas of Kolkata, India. 
Kolkata hosts more than 22 red light areas and more than 60,000 women work in its commercial sex industry. Sari Bari operates in two of these red light districts: Sonagacchi and Kalighat. Most of the women and girls working there come from the villages of West Bengal, India, Nepal and Bangladesh. They never chose the sex trade for themselves; poverty, trafficking and trickery chose them.
Sari Bari began with a series of friendships that transformed our worldview and in fact, our lives. The first relationship came to us by chance; our friend Josh went to the barber and was offered sexual services when his haircut was finished. Rather than accept, Josh started a conversation. That simple conversation led our community to begin visiting the brothels. 

Not surprisingly, the immense need in Kolkata can be overwhelming. In the interview I saw, Sarah (one of the founders) said that they don't look beyond the brothel in front of them, and simply continue to reach out to these hopelessly marginalized women one at a time.
New life at Sari Bari starts with a simple invitation. We have a team of staff who visits the red light areas, keeping connections open and making opportunities for new friendship a priority. The team offers presence to the women’s current circumstances and invitations to work at Sari Bari or partnering businesses.
Another thing that makes this organization different (and cool) is that each woman's name (not her street name, her real name) is sewn into each blanket, bag or scarf she makes, in a way redeeming her true identity from the polluted and grim streets of the city.
Everyone’s first day at Sari Bari is celebrated with a birthday cake. The staff gathers around on these special days to celebrate and encourage the new women as they take their first step toward freedom and a new life. Their mukti (freedom) birthday is marked and we continue to celebrate it yearly with cake and a community celebration. As Sari Bari has grown, we celebrate a mukti birthday almost every month!
I just bought my first Sari Bari item this morning online - shipping was a little high (from the USA to Canada - why online retailers always have to use USPS's expensive priority option to Canada is beyond me, but there you have it! $21 for shipping!). But if you live in the USA, you're in luck! Take advantage!

It's mine! All mine! Muwhahaha! But you can get one, too! :)

$35.99 for a purse/bag is a pretty good deal (especially with the Canadian dollar at or above par with the American), and what a fantastic industry to support.

BEST DEAL: Cheery red-inset large jute market bag for $6.99 - that's a great bargain!

It's green (recycled fabric!), it's ethical, and it's affordable! One-of-a-kind and still affordable - now that's a good deal.

I'll post my own photos of my Jiya bag when it arrives, and let you know what I think. The only real downside I can see to Sari Bari's website is the limited availability (for obvious reasons - it's not like they operate huge sweatshops and turn out 1000's of cheaply made items). Perhaps, then, we can purchase what is available, or simply donate what money we can spare today (maybe even $10?), to support future production and get more women celebrating their 'freedom birthdays' with the Sari Bari folks in Kolkata.

I found other places that sell Sari Bari products! If you can't find it on, try here:
Better Way Imports and Global See-Saw


  1. interesting, i was JUST looking at Punjammies yesterday:

  2. Cool, Eva! I'd never heard of Punjammies! LOVE THEM! :D Thanks so much for sharing!!!