Bend clothing business living up to its mission

Sudara workers to India for humanitarian effort

Bend business living up to its...

BEND, Ore. - A group of employees from a small business in Bend called Sudara are on their way to India right now for a humanitarian trip. That might seem a bit arbitrary, but if you know the company's background, it makes sense.

Sudara offers Indian-inspired clothes, including their patented Punjammies. The clothes aren't made in the US, but this isn't your typical big business outsourcing jobs.

Sudara partners with sewing centers all across India that employ women who have been caught in the largely unchecked human trafficking ring in the country.

"That is their mission, is to get these women a job, which is very important," Sudara chief operating officer Dana Black said. "It's the first step in getting out of it."

The walls of the company's warehouse are covered with pictures of the women Sudara helps in their effort to bring them out of the sex trade and give them a chance at a better life.

"I decided to do something about it," Sudara founder and CEO Shannon Keith said Tuesday. "And together with a small team, (I) thought that if we could give women job opportunities, which is what they were lacking, they wouldn't have to sell their bodies for sex, and they could actually be in charge of their future and live in freedom for them and their children."

The idea is to give them that opportunity through steady employment that doesn't include selling themselves.

"Women -- when they have jobs, when they have bank accounts, they have a higher probability for freedom and choices over their own future," Keith said.

On her way around Bend Monday, Gov. Kate Brown stopped by Sudara and got a tour. She ended up buying a pair of Punjammies to wear on cold nights in Salem.

Asked what she thought about women's marches across the country last weekend, Keith said she thinks the women who marched share her goal -- to show up for women everywhere. In her case, she says, she shows up for women without a voice of their own, who live half a world away.

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