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Lingerie startup’s mission of empowering women extends to impoverished single moms in Colombia

LatinaLista — What does lingerie have to do with empowering women?

For Colombian-born Catalina Girald, it has everything to do with her San Francisco-based year-old lingerie start-up Naja.

Girald’s definition of empowerment isn’t focused only on making women feel special wearing her hand-harvested Peruvian Pima cotton panties, or being inspired by selected quotes printed on the inside of some of the garments or feeling good that they didn’t pay exorbitant prices for custom details made with high-quality fabrics as found in other luxury brands. Rather, empowerment derived from Naja mostly means giving single moms, in one of the poorest areas of Colombia, the confidence to know that they and their children’s future is a lot more hopeful that it ever was before.


That’s because through the company’s Underwear for Hope program single Colombian moms receive sewing lessons, a marketable skill that lifts them out of poverty — and gets them a job with Naja.

Every time a bra is bought through the Naja website, a portion of the revenue goes towards the entrepreneurial program, along with, the customer receiving a lingerie wash bag made by a woman enrolled in the sewing program.

Though Naja only launched in May 2013, the company is already racking up some amazing life-changing stories:

Maria Jaramillo, 36 years old; Barrio Caicedo, Colombia
My name is Maria, I am one of the “displaced” in Colombia—after gangs killed my sister, I was forced to leave our village with my three girls and my sister’s two girls. The violence hit me very hard. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to die, but I couldn’t because I had them to take care of. Now, I try to teach children about the violence and I have a group of about 50 kids. I cleaned up a little park around the corner and on weekends I turn it into an activity center—I teach the children to plant, we fry potato chips in kettles, and we draw. I really try to focus on the boys, because war is made by men. I make them draw flowers so that they understand that flowers are not just for girls. I tell them that just because their mothers mop it doesn’t mean that they can’t. I teach them that when they join gangs, they destroy entire families. And I teach them that one shouldn’t wait for things to be given to them, things should be earned. Sometimes I think I want to leave this neighborhood, it has become just as violent as where I used to be from. But, I can’t. The children, they need me.

As of November 2013, Maria works full time through Underwear for Hope. She hopes to use what she earns to educate her daughters and her nieces and to build a play house in the park for her 50 children to play in.

The Naja brand carries four distinct collections of intimate apparel. It’s the quality details, like memory foam cups, nylon lace, interior bra prints and ultrasonic sealed bra straps that differentiate this brand in a competitive market — and elevates the cause of empowering women.

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