Freedom One Stitch at a Time

by Mar 11, 2016Courage, Voice4 comments

“I couldn’t hold my past and my freedom
at the same time. The things from the past bound up
my hands and made me feel discouraged. I found the
strength to let go and leave it all behind.
Then I found peace and freedom.”
Samira, a Sari Bari “Hero”

As I write this post, a light quilt made of saris from India warms me on a chilly rainy day. It’s a prayer quilt of sorts, for I pray often for the woman who created it. Tones of tan, brown, orange and green spread across the fabric in dotted leaf and floral patterns. Lines of small, even stitches hold together layers of thin fabric.

I received the quilt as a gift from my daughter after she returned from a trip to India in the summer of 2007. She and two other young women from the university she attended traveled to India to spend a month in Calcutta—or Kolkata, as it is renamed by its country. The purpose of their trip, and their passion, was to work with organizations offering employment to women and girls trapped in Kolkata’s sex trade.

*Half of the females sold in Kolkata today are 11-14 years old and often come from poor families who sell them for $50. The “agent” will then upsell her to a “city employer” for $800. To her buyer she is a commodity, something to sell over and over again.

Two organizations in this city of five million captured the hearts of my daughter and her team. Both offer an opportunity for each woman they serve to move toward freedom through learning a new trade. At Freeset the women design and create canvas bags, and at Sari Bari they sew together quilts and other fabric products out of used, worn saris they gather from the street venders.

When I held my quilt for the first time, I immediately felt the grime from the streets, for they did not wash the fabrics before layering and sewing the quilts**. The sticky filth created a representative image for me of a life a woman, or young girl, is never meant to experience. She is not meant to be traded and sold like an object. She is not meant to be dehumanized as if she has no identity or dreams to be honored.

She is a beautiful creation of God, meant to be free, meant to have a voice.

Where in your life do you long to honor who you are and your dreams? To know you are a beautiful creation of God, meant to be free? Who will you ask to come alongside you?

In one corner of my quilt a small label reads, “made in India by Mukti.” Mukti means “freedom” in Bengali, and it is the first name given to each woman at Sari Bari as she begins her apprenticeship making quilts. The use of this name is partly to protect her identity for a time, but it holds great meaning for her as she stitches the labels onto her quilts. She is working toward freedom. She carries the hope that when she completes apprenticeship and has learned her new trade, she can successfully break free from the abuse and slavery of sex trade.

She knows Mukti is a temporary name, for one day she will attach a new label to her quilts, one printed with her personal name. What that moment must mean for each woman.

A name. Her name. Used with freedom and without fear.

Do you know someone who needs to believe she is loved and valued, that her name and identity matter? How might you reach out to her this next week?

As I hold my quilt and run my fingers along the rows of stitches, I think of the woman who pushed a needle through the four layers of fabric—Mukti, a person who desires freedom, someone with a name and a story I can’t even begin to imagine. I’m grateful hers is a story that is turning toward freedom.

So yes, I pray for the woman who sewed my quilt. I pray that with each stitch she saw herself more and more as one who is loved and valued. I pray she is using her name now, masterfully sewing new quilts and creating a new life. And I pray she is discovering she can be completely free as God means for each of us to be.

I haven’t experienced anything like this young woman has, but I’ve needed to discover, just like her, I have a name and a story that God knows well and desires to beautifully unfold with freedom and purpose. We each do. He knows our names and the areas of our life that lack freedom. He offers that freedom. And he uses us to bring that freedom to others.

Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord
answered me and set me free.
Psalm 118:5 ESV

You might be interested in participating in some way with anti-trafficking organizations like those mentioned in this post. A few options, including links, are listed below

Or perhaps you are already serving with an organization helping to set women free. If you are, we’d love to hear your story. Please share by leaving a comment or by using our contact page. We might choose to feature your story or organization on this site. We want to celebrate what you are doing!

Anti-Trafficking Organizations

National Human Trafficking Hotline

*Information from article: Trafficking of Children and Women in India
**They might wash the fabrics now, and likely always have before they are sold. My quilt was stitched and then immediately bought by my daughter as a gift for me.


  1. Pat Baer

    Such a tragic reality that quite frankly I would rather not think about. Thank you for bringing it to light. And thank you for challenging me not only to lean into awareness, but consider ways to combat it. The very least I can do is pray for these precious souls.

    • Jan Kern

      You’re so right, Pat. Trafficking is a reality that is hard to look at though it’s happening right in our neighborhoods. You’re taking up a beautiful challenge to lean into awareness, consider ways to be involved, but especially to pray. And prayer might be the most important action we can take. Likely it will naturally lead us to see it where we weren’t looking and to be stirred into a specific action we can take right where we are.

  2. Bethany

    What a beautiful picture, moving towards freedom and into our true identity one stitch at a time. Thanks for sharing these helpful links to human trafficking resources.

    • Jan Kern

      A well-said summary, Bethany. Thank you. Even looking at the photo of the young woman stitching, I imagine the time each young girl or woman has to reflect and heal, and to discover God’s deep love for her. Many do discover that. That is hope.

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