Sacred Mark - Prokritee from Bangladesh
Hope through soap-making – that is the promise of redemption offered up by the fair trade organization Sacred Mark Enterprise to the women who leave behind their lives in the sex trade. In 1970, a Mennonite missionary group founded Prokritee after a typhoon killed over 300,00 people and destroyed a large part of Bangladesh. They established cooperatives like Sacred Mark, to create handiworks from soap to recycled sari products.
Every woman who arrives at Sacred Mark has a similar, but unique, story of how she'd become a sex worker – Mitu left an arranged marriage to an abusive, drug-addicted alcoholic gambler and turned to sex work to support herself and young son; Asha was raped by a neighbor then beaten by her mother for being raped; Piya was forced into a marriage to an unfaithful man then disowned by her family when she divorced him. They often escape one wretched situation only to end up in another. Few girls learn to read in Bangladesh, which has a literacy rate of less than 60% for the adult population, so hope is a rare privilege.
That cycle of desperation is put behind them when they make a clean start at Sacred Mark, with counseling, support, training, and a chance to earn fair wages. The enterprise's name refers to a phrase from a poem by a famous Bengali poet, printed on the label of each bar of soap, which speaks to the power of transformation. Not only are the women changed, but it ripples out into their families and communities – Mitu's husband received counseling and has given up most of his addictive and abusive behaviors; Piya's daughter is in boarding school, and Asha married two weeks after joining Sacred Mark.
Like the bio-degradable, all-natural, and environmentally friendly soap with luscious scents which the women make and package by hand and seal with the mark of a thumbprint, they are forever reminded that they are unique and can change the world.