Member Post from SUDARA

While traveling throughout India in 2005, Sudara founder and CEO, Shannon Keith, heard stories of sex trafficking and witnessed women being forced to sell their bodies in order to feed their families.  She returned home from that trip and was compelled to create an organization that would make a lasting impact for women and their families. Shannon formed a small team of family and friends and, together, they looked for India-based groups that were seeking ways to have a positive impact and help women looking for a way out of the Red Light Districts. The team knew that safe, steady and living-wage employment would be a pathway to freedom and offer choices for women and their families.

Over 10 years later, Sudara is a thriving benefit corporation and lifestyle brand with a mission that is still rooted in job development for women in India who are at the highest risk or survivors of sex trafficking. More than a give-back model, Sudara enables women to have choices for themselves and for their families. We are working for deep change and believe this is done through hand-ups, not hand-outs. Purchases of Sudara goods and clothing support training and jobs for the women who make the products, and fund investments in a non-profit arm of Sudara that provides for those same women across their entire ecosystem and supports sustainable pathways to freedom.

Sudara’s signature product — Punjammies — is a collection of loungewear that features prints inspired by and named after a woman who makes the product as part of Sudara’s job development programs. One of the most recent stories that is inspiring us is Kala’s story.

Most of the women in Kala’s family are sex workers. She tried to hide this fact when she was at school. She didn’t want the other students to make fun of her and she wanted to do something else when she graduated.  As the oldest daughter, though, everyone assumed that she would one day enter the sex trade and help take care of her younger siblings.

That one day came after Kala completed the 10th grade.  Her mother’s illness was getting progressively worse until she became bedridden and could no longer work.  Her family, in need of income, forced her into the sex trade too. Several months later, a few representatives from a Sudara partner center were in Kala’s village talking about the skills training programs and raising awareness about traffickers. Kala heard their message and asked for help. She saw this opportunity as her only way out.

Kala is now living in safe housing through a Sudara partner center and receiving tutoring in computer skills and spoken English. She said that when she came to the center she was very withdrawn from activities and nervous, but the staff and center “gave me confidence and communication skills along with dignity and meaning to my life.”  She was recently accepted into college and will begin those studies next year.

This story and many like it are made possible only through thoughtful, outcome-driven design and strategic partnerships. Far beyond a single donation or gift, empowering women to make a life of their own choosing has ripple effects and positive implications that span the generations of an entire family. This is the type of impact that Sudara cares about and strives for the most – sustainable impact that empowers women, breaks cycles of poverty and ends sex trafficking once and for all.

Featuring GlobalPDX Members

One of our primary goals at GlobalPDX is to highlight the work of our members and we think the best way to do that is to amplify their voices. We invite our members to contribute blog posts that describe their organizations and their work in hopes that you will learn about each of them in greater detail including their impact around the world.

Our first Member Post comes from Sudara, a Benefit Corporation based in Bend, OR.  Sudara is focused on empowering people and changing the world. Its mission is to create living-wage jobs for women in India and have a deep, generational impact for survivors of sex trafficking and their families.

Enjoy reading their story and let us know at [email protected] if you would like to write a Member Post.

First anniversary reflection

For more than 16 years, local hero of mine, Irene Tinker, hosted monthly gatherings into their home centered around international development called the devSalon. The atmosphere of these gatherings was always lively and the conversations important and relevant. Five years ago when Irene announced that she was no longer hosting the devSalons, I created Development Drinks to keep the community alive.

Watching this sector and community grow and connect over the past five years has been a true pleasure. From people getting new jobs and connecting to volunteer opportunities, to learning novel approaches to development and connecting socially, I’m proud of its success. However, after watching so many coincidental meetings we saw a ton of benefits in creating a space for this community to flourish.

A year ago, Anne Castleton, formerly of Mercy Corps, and I gathered around 50 Oregon-based international development organizations together to hear from them how they could benefit from more collaboration, networking, mentorship, and direct support. Over the past year we’ve had numerous conversations with organizations, university programs, peer-network groups in other states, and countless others.

Due to the generous donation of the Vatheuer Family Foundation, we were able to launch GlobalPDX last month at the Elevating Impact Summit. It has been wonderful to connect with the innovators in our community, from remote sensors on water pumps to integrated reforestation and health projects in the jungles of Borneo, Oregonians are doing some incredible work around the world. I’m ecstatic about the response to GlobalPDX, now boasting over 70 members with more joining every week.

I’m looking forward to continue to share the stories of members and to help the community professionalize, grow, and increase their impact around the world. Thank you to the organizations who have joined and for everyone else to make this a reality. I’m proud of our progress up to this point and I can’t wait to see how we grow over the coming years!

Aaron Liss is the Technical Director of Green Empowerment and has been running Development Drinks since 2012.

International Development Roundtable kick-off meeting March 2016


GlobalPDX kick-off at the Elevating Impact Summit, February 2017. Marissa Stryle, Andrea Johnson, and Aaron Liss (left to right).

Impact Invention Award given to two GlobalPDX members

Congratulations to GlobalPDX members InStove and Oregon State University’s Humanitarian Engineering Department for receiving the Impact Award in Impact Invention at the Elevating Impact Summit on February 13.  The award, presented by the Lemelson Foundation, goes to an entrepreneur or entrepreneurial team working to address a social, environmental, or economic problem through an invention-based enterprise creating a new physical product or products.  The groups were recognized for their collaboration to develop new technologies related to cooking stoves.