Founding Punjammies

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Have you ever been confronted with a situation, and discovered that you had no choice but to take action? The experience that led me to create Punjammies was one of those moments.

Human trafficking was not a cause I sought out: it’s more like the cause found me.

In 2005, I traveled with my husband to India. Our plan was to build a well in honor of our parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. As fate would have it, the neighborhood where we dedicated the well happened to be right in the middle of the red light district.

For me, the happy occasion of helping a neighborhood gain easy access to clean water was eclipsed by the sight of women just like myself, whose bodies and souls had been ravaged by the sex trade. After returning home to the States, I continued to be haunted by the look I’d seen in the eyes of dozens of women and girls in the streets of India.

After several months of research into the contemporary abolitionist movement, I became convinced that I needed to do more than “raise awareness” of the issue. I wanted my work to focus on providing sustainable alternatives for women and girls to support themselves, so that women who wish to remain free from sex slavery have the option to do so.

That’s when I began to dream of Punjammies: beautiful, comfortable, free-moving pants inspired by the colors and textures of India. Patterns that were simple to follow, so that any woman could learn to perfect them. I began experimenting with pattern making and sewing, and when I had just the right product, I returned to India and hired our first six employees.

In the early days, I ran Punjammies out of my garage with a small number of volunteers. Most of my customers were my personal friends. But today, a decade later, the company has provided safe and dignified work alternatives to 200 women, who are paid wages above the “fair trade” standard. Collectively these women are mothers to 300 children, which means that 500 human lives remain free from sexual slavery because of the work provided by making and selling Punjammies.

Follow Shannon Keith:

Founder + CEO, Sudara

Shannon Keith is an abolitionist, speaker, and the CEO of Sudara. Ten years ago, she left her successful career as a corporate sales representative to start a global non-profit, to provide training and jobs for survivors of human trafficking in India.

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