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Shannon Keith, Founder of the International Princess Project (INTERVIEW)

Punjammies to End Slavery

— February 1, 2012 — Social Good
Below we had the opportunity to follow up our business profile of Punjammies and the International Princess Project with the founder, Shannon Keith.

In the interview below Shannon talks about her fashion retail business, which employs women who have escaped prostitution in India. Through the project, the seamstresses have the ability to earn fair wages under ethical conditions, and gain access to resources for healing, including an empowering community.

4 Questions with Shannon Keith, Founder of the International Princess Project

1. How did the idea for the business model come about?
It was a direct result of a trip I took to India in 2005. My husband and I helped lead a team of people from our church and the Indian organization we where working with, Harvest India, had been doing some work with the women in the red light area of their town. I happen to have a sales back ground, so when I saw the plight of these women and children my mind began to quickly shift to, "what if they made something that I could then sell in the US, so they could have an option for dignified work?" Because economics and abject poverty is a root issue to sex slavery, it was inherent in the business model to bring an economic solution for long term freedom for the victims and their children.

2. How did you decide to join this sector?
It wasn't so much of me making a conscious decision to join the sector, as it sort of falling into my lap. I felt a deep calling and responsibility to bring my gifts to bear on this issue and so it seemed that establishing a non profit was a good platform to enlist the greatest amount of help and resources to the cause. It was all about getting the word out to the most people and providing a platform for the most people to get involved.

3. How do you get your inspiration?
From God (my sincere desire is to live more and more like Jesus), my husband, three beautiful children, and the amazing strong role models of women that I have had in my life: grandmother, mother and aunties.

4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
I live in a beautiful place, Bend, Oregon, where nature calls to me year around. I adore alone time with a cup of great coffee and a book on my hammock in our backyard on a summer morning, as well as going on hikes, camp outs, mountain biking, snow shoeing and snowboarding with the family. Along with my husband and kids, almost any outdoor setting brings an incredible amount of creativity and inspiration -- the colours, smells and sounds of nature are forces that move me.

My rituals would be starting the day with my husband's awesome cappuccino. Spending time in my Bible is a vital part of my week (though I can't say it's always daily) and I love staying healthy by exercising and doing yoga. That routine and self care keep me grounded and able to be a better mother, wife and human being.

What are your dreams for the future?
My dream for the future would be to have my children live in a slave-free world, where every human life is valued and free. I believe it's possible and I will do everything in my ability to see it happen. It seems to me that everyone pitching in a little bit will go a long way in abolition. I'm also learning that social justice is not a cause, it's a life style and complete world view. One cannot try to save the children in slavery and be rude to your next door neighbor or the guy at the post office. I'm learning that dignity, humility and authenticity are all necessary virtues, even when you don't feel like it. I often pray for forgiveness and grace because I need it daily. At the end of the day when I'm face to face with my Creator, I long to hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant."