Atelier Bakhita is a unique place for many women who are or have been involved in prostitution. It’s a haven of peace that gives them back a taste for fraternity, beauty, working with their hands—in a word, for life.
Housed in Maison Bakhita (Bakhita Home), created by the Diocese of Paris in September 2021 to promote the integration of migrants, Atelier Bakhita extends over 850 square feet on Rue Jean Cottin, Paris (18th arrondissement). From Monday to Thursday, 9am to 4pm, eight women—the vast majority Nigerian—meet to sew. They work under the guidance of a workshop manager who trains them, accompanies them, and manages production. Since 2021, this growing production has specialized in wedding attire for children in wedding processions (such as flower girls).
When it was begun in 2017 by Aux Captifs, la libération (“Liberation to Captives”) association, Atelier Bakhita enabled women to learn to sew for themselves. The workshop started offering sewing activities as part of a wider offering to help women in prostitution to discover new opportunities in life. Little by little, it transitioned to offering them actual employment. These new seamstresses respond to orders, sell their creations, and are paid for their work. It benefits from a special kind of legal status for organizations that enable people seeking reintegration into society and the workforce to take part in supervised activities.