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Sari Bari opened in 2006, after four years of steady presence in the red light areas of Kolkata, India.
Kolkata hosts more than 22 red light areas and more than 60,000 women work in its commercial sex industry. Sari Bari operates in two of these red light districts: Sonagacchi and Kalighat. Most of the women and girls working there come from the villages of West Bengal, India, Nepal and Bangladesh. They never chose the sex trade for themselves; poverty, trafficking and trickery chose them.
Sari Bari began with a series of friendships that transformed our worldview and in fact, our lives. The first relationship came to us by chance; our friend Josh went to the barber and was offered sexual services when his haircut was finished. Rather than accept, Josh started a conversation. That simple conversation led our community to begin visiting the brothels.
During one of those visits, Kristin met Rupa and they formed a significant friendship. Kristin’s love for Rupa took her back to Sonagacchi where she met more women.
For Sarah, it began with meeting Pinkie as she stood on the line; she was so young—looking raw and humiliated, with unshed tears welling in her eyes. Poverty had led her to the sex trade to support her sick father and two younger brothers. Sarah’s heart broke and she lamented the lack of justice and freedom for Pinkie. These names and stories have become the foundation of Sari Bari’s work for freedom.
"Sari Bari seeks the sustainable restoration of red light communities and the prevention of the exploitation of women and children in the commercial sex trade."