Survivors Find Dignified Employment with Savhera

Savhera is a wellness company that creates dignified employment for survivors of sex trafficking while producing premium essential oils.

The catalyst for Savhera was in 2017 when a small group of American students sat on the floor of a rudimentary health clinic near GB Road in Delhi, listening to the stories of women trapped in the degradation and poverty of the brothel district. The woman telling her story stated “Some people exploit us for our bodies, but people like you are exploiting us for our stories—while nothing changes for us.” This indictment reverberated through the voice of the translator and deeply moved Dr. Vanessa Bouché—a professor and researcher on human trafficking. “What do you need?” she replied.

“We need dignified employment to get out of this dirty business!”

This challenging encounter prompted Dr. Bouché to search Delhi proper for employment for the woman, but after six months of chasing leads, she came up empty handed. It was then that she and her friend Usri decided to start their own venture, and in February 2018, Savhera was born. The name—chosen by their first employees— means “morning” or “new beginning,” and Savhera is both a benefit corp. as well as a fast-growing global community experiencing new beginnings together.

In order to effectively employ human trafficking survivors in Delhi, Dr. Bouché and Usri approached Savhera’s product development thoughtfully. They wanted to produce and sell a product that 1) was deeply rooted in Indian history and culture, 2) contributed to the health and wellness of both customer and employee, 3) was consumable, so as to create a loyal consumer base that would need to periodically replenish their supply, 4) was in an industry that projected growth over the next decade and 5) existed in a market space that currently lacked a social impact brand option. After pondering these five criteria, essential oils were the natural choice, and since then, Savhera has continued to expand to include general aromatherapy products as well.

Savhera currently employs seven survivors in Delhi and one in the US. Their production employees in Delhi make their starter and sample kit boxes from 100% cotton paper and post-consumer cardboard. They also handcraft diffusing jewelry, including earrings, necklaces and bracelets. The jewelry line will feature unique designs and one-of-a-kind pieces that are hand-crafted using a variety of materials that diffuse essential oils and will launch in the near future, allowing Savhera to scale their social impact in India.

Savhera also employs one survivor (so far!) in the US.  She manages online fulfillment, inventory, wholesale orders and customer service. The idea is to hire survivors in the US for jobs that are relevant in the “knowledge economy” where they gain valuable computer and project management skills.  

But Savhera is more than a place of employment; it is a safe haven that provides holistic development and healing. Their impact evaluation model, PIES, assesses the Physical, Intellectual, Economic and Spiritual wellness of their employees. Some highlights of Savhera’s impact include:

  • all production associates have moved out of the brothels (physical safety)
  • all production associates have seen a medical doctor and an optometrist in the last year (physical health)
  • all employees are now literate in Hindi (intellectual growth–none were literate when they first took a job with Savhera)
  • all employees now have bank accounts (economic integration)
  • all employees are growing in their ability to share their stories with safe people and heal from their trauma (spiritual growth/inner healing)  

Savhera’s customers also experience the dignity of pure essential oils that meet their P.E.T.A.L.S. Purity Promise™, a guarantee to stakeholders of Savhera’s commitment to quality and environmental stewardship. First, they Plant their crops in soil free from harmful chemicals and pesticides. Next, they Extract essential oils from the plants and add nothing to them. Third, they Test every batch of essential oils with a third-party independent lab that uses GC/MS testing.  They then Approve the batch for production only when they are confident that the batches are 100% pure with no diluents, contaminants or adulturants. Next, they LOAD the oils into sanitized blue cobalt recyclable glass bottles. Finally, Savhera Ships the orders in 100% recycled or recyclable shipping materials to minimize the environmental impact.  

Savhera believes that social enterprises will collectively change the world, and they’ve already begun to see that transformation in their own work. Freedom is now experienced by Pushpa, the woman who boldly proclaimed her worth and whose words catalyzed a movement that is now creating a new beginning in every bottle™. As an employee of Savhera and an inspiration to untold women and men across the globe, she looks back and recalls, “I never thought my words had so much power.”

To learn more about Savhera, check out their member directory profile.

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