What’s up with cow leather in a majority Hindu country? Aren’t cows sacred?

This was our first question too. Yes, cows are sacred to Hindu’s. So most of the tanneries in India are owned and operated by Muslim’s or Chinese Indians. Once the hide has been tanned Hindu’s view leather as just another material. So there’s no problem with Hindu’s working with leather, particularly after the tanning stage.

How can your leather be eco-friendly?

Our tanner is located in a government administered leather complex which is connected with a centralised effluent system. So no harmful waste is being dumped into waterways to make our leather. Our tanner, Patrick Lee, developed his own unique Fair Trade approved eco-tanning process. Sorry it’s a secret recipe, but I can tell you that the toxic chromium used in almost all tanning these days has been replaced by salts that have really long names.

Are you fair trade?

We are not Fair Trade certified at this stage but we’re working towards it. The system for Fair Trade certification works best for agricultural and farming sectors, so it’s tricky for small workshops like us to obtain. We can assure you that our ethical standards are very high and Fair Trade certification might be something you see on The Loyal Workshop products in the future.

Why don’t you show your artisans faces in any publicity?

Our women have faced a lifetime of exploitation and we believe that sometimes publicity and media can further exploit the vulnerable. Sometimes people are more interested in a good story than the dignity of the subject. These women have come out of the sex-industry, where sometimes simply looking at a women can be an act of oppression. So we are fiercely defensive in protecting our ladies’ identities and preserving their dignity. We try to share a little bit about their personalities and uniqueness, as on our meet the artisan’s page, while at the same time respecting their privacy.

How can you do free shipping?

We skip the middle-man by selling direct to you from our website. This cuts out unnecessary costs, which enables us to absorb the entire shipping cost and maintain the same retail price. This also means we have a little more money leftover at the end, to put back into this community’s fight for freedom. Straight from her hands to yours. Pretty sweet deal for everyone.

Why can’t I buy wristbands individually?

The price of shipping a wristband from our place to yours is more than the price of a wristband itself. We guessed that you wouldn’t want to pay for expensive shipping for a smaller item. So if you love our wristbands, consider going in with your mates on an advocacy pack. By selling the wristbands in your circles, you can become advocates for change.

Why are your products only available in a few places?

At this stage we want to cover shipping within the online retail price. Some places around the world are too expensive to ship to and we would lose money on the sale to places like rural Namibia. But one day we hope to ship world-wide.

Where can I find your products locally?

In these early days we don’t have much stock to send to retailers. As we grow, we’ll be connecting with local stockists. We will put up a list on our website and one day you’ll be able to smell, feel and buy TLW products in a store near you.

Are you a Christian organisation?

All of the foreign staff believe in Jesus and want to follow his teaching to love others as he loved us. Jesus was the ultimate example of caring for the poor and fighting injustice. We begin each workday with a short bible reading and prayer. Spirituality is a very natural part of an Indian’s life, so this practise is welcomed by our ladies. There is no expectation that our women should become Christian and converting them is not why we run this business (we tell them that too). We support our women 100% in the choices that they make in life and spirituality is one of those areas. So while we discuss and practice our Christian faith we support them in their faith journey too.

Are you a real business or an NGO?

We are not a charity, we do not give hand outs. Our ladies work hard for their monthly income and we empower them with legitimate employment. We are an Indian Registered Private Limited Company and one of our aims is to make a profit. The way we do business and how we use our profits is what makes us different.

Isn’t it dangerous taking women from the Red Light Areas?

We do some things that make it safe for us to enter red light areas and employ women from the sex-trade. The major one is that our business is relational. Before we even registered the business we visited the red-light area, again and again and again. We’ve developed strong friendships in the community: friends that look out for us, understand our business and support us. We also don’t rescue or take girls away from the sex-trade. We offer an alternative that women can choose or not choose. There are other organisations that perform raids and rescues, but that’s not our business.

Are you against legalising prostitution?

We don’t want to be people against the sex-trade, instead we want to be for freedom. From years of personally getting to know many women in the sex-trade, we can’t see how legitimising an oppressive and corrupt system will help the women and children that are enslaved. The women we know in the sex-trade work hard and sacrificially so that their daughters will not work in the trade. Not a single woman wants sex work to be a choice for her daughter, so we stand with them in their fight for dignified employment.

How are the foreigners in the business paid?

All of the foreigners work in a volunteer capacity. No money from the business goes to foreign staff or investors. 100% of the capital and profits are used for the business, its local employees and its future development. Foreigners who stick around for a long time are usually financially supported by family, friends and churches who also believe that modern day slavery must end and another world is possible.