“Demand quality not just in the products you buy… but in the life of the person who made it.” Orsola De Castro
Do you know what bonded labor slavery is? I really didn’t know about it until I met my friend Mallory a few years ago…
The way Mallory explained it, bonded labor slavery has a lot to do with debt bondage. In some places among the poor, if you need to borrow any amount of money to pay off a medical bill for example, it is very common to go to a local factory owner to ask for help in paying off your debt. The factory owner will front you the amount of money, but in return, you and your entire family will have to work until your debt is worked off. But it’s a false promise.
They will never actually be able to work off that debt because the factory owner is charging an absolutely exorbitant interest. Many times, the working conditions are inhumane and violent… It is not uncommon for a generation of slavery to be formed due to a small debt of even just $30. I don’t know about you, but just hearing that stirs something in me and I can’t help but wonder: what can I do to help free these families?
Well, there is so much you can do to help, but to start, let me tell you about my friend, Mallory.
Mallory Martin, founder of Mended, worked for 7 years with a global anti-slavery non-profit whose mission is to protect people in poverty from violence by rescuing victims, restoring survivors to safety and strength, and helping local law enforcement build a safe future that lasts. During her time there, Mallory learned about the vicious cycle of bonded labor slavery and heard many stories of survivors. It wasn’t until she was able to travel to South Asia to meet some of these survivors that she was able to understand their joy, their courage, and their strength. But just because they were rescued and living in freedom doesn’t mean they have an easy journey moving forward. Mallory then learned about one key element to a survivor’s freedom – meaningful and sustainable employment.
This was 3 years ago when Mallory traveled to South Asia. Shortly after, the pandemic hit leaving many of the artisans out of work, but they began hand-sewing masks to fill the need. Knowing this, Mallory and her husband decided to make an order for 1,000 masks from the artisans she had met and she was blown away with how beautiful they were! This was the first order she would place, with many more to come. Later into 2020, Mallory learned from a friend about the art of block-printing and knew right then and there that it would be the foundation of the business she had been hoping to launch. Mallory finally knew what she could do to create meaningful employment and freedom for these survivors. She even pulled out the bubbly to toast with her friend because she knew this moment would change both of their lives forever!
Right now, Mended has 18 men and women employed as vendors, rather than just as employees. Five more are being trained in the coming weeks! This model allows them to have their own business, creating a strong sense of ownership and dignity in these survivors. Mallory places orders through the vendors at their list price and from there, the process begins! From start-to-finish, block-printing actually takes about 3 days! A master artisan hand carves each wooden block to create the designs, then the survivor artisans dip it into dye and manually line up the prints (they are seriously so intricate). Since each piece is handmade, they are all unique in their own way, and I think that just adds to their beauty! After printing, the textiles take about 3 days to sun dry until they are ready for use. So much love and effort is put into each piece from Mended, AND each piece is much more than just a napkin – it represents a positive impact on the lives of survivors of trafficking.
Every purchase from Mended allows for sustainable and above-market wages, dignified and safe work to support survivors, their families and communities, professional growth through on-going skills training and development. The economic empowerment aspect of the restoration journey is very important and even reduces their chances of being re-trafficked. And as consumers, we hold so much power and can create a demand for products from brands that demand a high standard of living for their employees. The way we choose to shop can make a positive impact on the lives of those behind the products!
I’m honored to have Mended as our Purposeful People partner for the month of December! Together, we created South African-inspired designs for tea towels and dinner napkins, including proteas, butterflies, hummingbirds, and more! They come in Evergreen & Gold and Black & Neutral, which are perfect for a holiday celebration or for the tea-enthusiast in your life (like me). You can shop our Mended X Demi designs here, as well as their other beautiful linens, table runners, and pocket squares – there really is a little something for everyone! Use code DEMI20 through December 16th for 20% off.
Wishing you all a happy holiday season!