Photograph by Tiffany Manning
Four years ago, Kristin Keen started the local faith-based nonprofit Rethreaded. With Rethreaded, Keen was seeking to fight back against the effects of the sex trade industry – prostitution, human trafficking, strip clubs and pornography – on a business-to-business level by creating an organization that provides jobs for women in our area who are seeking to break the cycle and forge ahead in a new chapter of their lives.
Rethreaded creates clothing and accessories for purchase, and was the city’s winner at the first One Spark event in 2013. The organization recently celebrated its fourth anniversary with a family-friendly birthday party at their retail space at 820 Barnett Street in Downtown. We got to converse with the remarkable Keen shortly thereafter . . .
What brought your attention to the issue of the global sex trade?
In 2002 I went on a four month trip to India with a small service organization called Word Made Flesh. Word Made Flesh had just started work in a red-light area called Sonagachi. I was able to go with the organization’s staff and visit Sonagachi toward the end of my time there. Needless to say, I was shocked and heartbroken. There are ten thousand women and girls in one square mile. Thirty-percent of them are underage . . . that’s three-thousand girls that are age seventeen and under.
On the last day of my stay, one of the young girls I had met asked why I was leaving and why I wasn’t coming back. I had no answer for her. But, because of my relationship with that teenage girl, I decided to go back to India and join the Word Made Flesh staff. I ended up staying for five more years and co-founded a business with fellow staff member Sarah Lance called Sari Bari. Those five years I spent with the women in India have shaped so much of how I see the world. They are the reason why I am so passionate about breaking the cycle of the sex trade industry and creating spaces for women to become who they were created to be.