Nomi Network was started in 2009 to help women recover from sex trafficking. The non-profit helps to provide training to women in India and Cambodia, focusing on impoverished areas where women are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked.
In Cambodia, Nomi has partnered with a Phnom Penh-based social enterprise that hires survivors of the sex trade industry as well as women at risk. The enterprise was once in danger of shutting down, but thanks to Nomi Network’s help to increase sales, now employs about 80 women. In India, Nomi Network works directly in Bihar, the country’s poorest state.
As a member of the Fair Trade Federation, the Nomi Network helps women create and market products destined for a larger international audience. At the same time, the products are specific to the local materials available. For example, women in Cambodia recycle large rice bags from the local market into colorful totes and messenger bags—which can be used to replace disposable shopping bags anywhere in the world. They also make pretty yoga mat bags, as well as smaller pouches.
In Bihar, the non-profit works with women to hand-paint fabrics to create traditional textiles with organic cottons and canvas. The style of painting is modeled on Madhubani folk art, which is popular in the region, and some of the pieces are also embellished with embroidery. The fabrics are then turned into beautiful cushions, which are Nomi Network's newest items and should be available for delivery in July. Each piece is signed by the artist, and for some women working with Nomi Network is the first time she has learned to write her name.
Nomi Network’s Jessica Sylvester told me women who have completed their training also have the opportunity to train others, and even start businesses of their own. In India, one woman who received training from the Nomi Network went on to start her own business making petticoats, which are worn under saris, for the local market.