House of Hope
In the Bengali language basha means ‘house’ and asha means ‘hope’. Basha is the house of hope we’re building in Bangladesh.
Basha opened its doors on 1 May 2011. That day fourteen women joined Basha’s Dhaka office ready to begin a new life. We have continued to add new partners, new centres, new children’s programmes, and are currently serving nearly ten times the number of women and children we started with.
So why is Basha necessary?
"They'll be in prostitution soon..."
Railway stations are where you go in Bangladesh when you have absolutely nothing. Here you can sleep on the platform with your blanket and few possessions. But life is cheap and flesh can be bought.
On a July night in 2010, two teenaged girls were preparing their beds on the train platform. ‘They’ll be in prostitution soon,’ Razia, told Robin Seyfert, Basha’s founder. When Robin returned the next day, families were preparing food along the railroad tracks, while children played in the trash.
“One woman eyed me shrewdly, having grown cynical from the nightly selling of her body in order to survive,” recalls Robin. “Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of movement, energy, colour: three women were walking towards me who were attending a support programme for women leaving sex work. ‘Sister, sister,’ they called as they waved their storybooks. ‘We’re going home to practice our reading.’
“Seeing the joy and hope on their faces in the midst of so many others resigned to squalor and degradation, suddenly I knew I could not just leave.”
Providing opportunity, finding hope
Basha began a partnership with Children’s Uplift Programme, who had been providing a drop-in centre, medical care, counselling and life-skills training for mothers living on the streets in Dhaka for some time. Many women had struggled to find a livelihood because of the stigma attached to their past and the trauma they continued to deal with.
Upon completion of up to three years with CUP, Basha would now offer them alternative paid work and the opportunity to leave behind their difficulties for good.
The early days were challenging. Basha was a radically different environment from the one our new employees had known before.
Quality standards were a totally new concept and caused frequent quarrels.
Gradually our trainee artisans discovered that with diligent work they could earn a good wage.
As time passed, the sharp pain written on their faces from past trauma was gradually replaced with peace and hope.
Growing business, growing dreams
As Basha’s sales and product range grew, we could give more women a chance to escape degradation and poverty.
Basha currently works in five different communities, providing training, children’s programmes, employment and other support.
Today, driven by the needs of the many thousands of women in Bangladesh who are forced into lives they are deeply ashamed of, Basha strives to create alternative opportunities one job at a time – through sales of our life-giving, one-of-a-kind products.