Sutisana: Bolivia's Freedom Business

We're consistently amazed by the work of our partners SutiSana, bringing hope and light to industries overcome with darkness. Watch this video to meet the artisans behind their beautiful products, and learn more about their work in Bolivia below.

It’s always shocking to learn about a world entirely different from our own. Recently, I spent some time learning about the economic conditions in El Alto Bolivia and many women that have no other option than to prostitute themselves.   

Fighting Brothels

This is why I want to talk to you about SutiSana.  This company was founded in 2010 and makes bags, dresses, jewelry and many other accessories.  All these products are made by women living in El Alto, Bolivia. And all these women are rehabilitated sex workers. 

SutiSana was formed by World Made Flesh with the mission of providing an alternative employment to prostitution.  These women are given a full time job, health benefits, and community support for themselves and their children.  All the funds generated from SutiSana are recycled and used to help more women leave brothels in Bolivia.

Word Made Flesh operates in 13 places around the world, among them are Rwanda, Peru, New Guinea, Thailand, and of course Bolivia.  WMF seeks to help the communities they work in, and the work they do depends on the specific problems in that area. In Bolivia, WMF offers therapy, support, and skill workshops for women seeking to leave prostitution.  These skill workshops teach these women how to sew and work with various materials, which prepares them for a job at SutiSana.

Exploitation In Bolivia

I want to shed a little light on what goes on in the red light district in El Alto, the industry of prostitution in Bolivia, and the women that often find themselves working in brothels.  I was shocked to learn that prostitution is legal in Bolivia. However, this comes with a few caveats. It is only legal for registered workers over the age of 18 in licensed brothels. These women also need regular STD tests every 20 days.  La Pez and its capital El Alto combined house approximately 50,000 sex workers, and many women that work in this industry are either coerced, victims of sex trafficking, or have no other option to feed their families.

Unfortunately, a lot of teenagers are brought into the industry as well, where the average age to entry is 16.  Many of these women are from lower class and have few other options- under 13% of them are educated. This means that they have no other line of work to turn to outside of prostitution.

This is why the opportunities provided by World Made Flesh and SutiSana are so powerful.  For women that are trapped as sex workers to provide for their families, or those that have no other profession to turn to, these organizations are changing lives.

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