London-based start-up, CorkYogis, is selling sustainable cork yoga mats to support women recently freed from Kolkata’s sex trade.
Human trafficking is one of the world’s most serious problems, with an estimated 35 million people shackled to fates no one would choose. 14 million of these people are held captive in India. After visiting Kolkata, India’s trafficking capital, British Indian Laura Sengupta was inspired to use her love of yoga to make a difference.
No one truly knows the real number of women in the sex trade
The UN believes Kolkata receives 15,000 people each year from Nepal alone, sold into the sex trade and slavery. But with on-the-ground statistics difficult to calculate, it’s likely the true number of women and girls working in the city’s sex trade far exceeds official figures.
Keen to hear their stories, Sengupta visited the founders of local charity, Destiny Reflection and heard ex-sex workers’ stories first hand. Donating her late grandmother’s saris didn’t feel like enough, so on returning to London in April 2015, the 26-year-old set up Cork Yogis with the passionate belief that yoga can improve lives beyond the walls of the western yoga studio.
Yoga Mats make a difference
Cork Yogis’ sustainably produced and sweat-responsive cork mats are designed to empower and inspire western yogis and yoginis on their yoga journeys, while funding projects directly supporting women and girls recently freed from sex work in Kolkata. These women need help to heal from the trauma of their experiences, as well as help to become financially independent. So, each cork mat sold by Cork Yogis allows its customer to choose which programme to contribute to: a literacy and numeracy course designed to build confidence and improve choice, or a sewing programme teaching employable skills. With some women already finding employment making mat bags for Cork Yogis, there’s proof this initiative is harnessing yoga’s power to cultivate individual and social good.