I shared with you a few months ago that I have stepped up my involvement with Freeset, a business that employs women in India who have left prostitution. These brave women have walked away from the only line of work they’ve ever known and the only life they could have imagined. They never chose the sex trade; many of them simply don’t have another option. With no education, no husband, no job, and no way to support themselves, most of them enter into prostitution as the only way to feed their children.
Though the sex trade employs over 10,000 women each day in Kolkata alone, Freeset is a light burning brightly into some very dark situations. They offer women the opportunity to walk away from the sex trade. Freeset employs women to make bags and t-shirts, which are then shipped to warehouses around the world and sold for a profit.
Profits go directly back into Freeset so that we can employ more women. The Freeset business model is mind-boggling. Take women who have no sewing skills, train them, pay them far more than the going rate, and throw in medical insurance, education, childcare, and retirement benefits.
And bring hope and healing to women who have never dared to dream of any other life than what they’ve known.
While I could talk all day about the beautiful Freeset women and what they do, I want to give you a chance to hear from Annie Hilton, the co-founder of Freeset. Annie and Kerry Hilton left their New Zealand home several years ago and moved with their four children into the red-light district of Kolkata to begin working with the women there. For twelve years they have tirelessly worked to bring freedom to women trapped in the sex trade. The situations aren’t easy and women and extremely reluctant to walk away. They’ve been tricked and lied to so many times that they are afraid to trust anyone. But Annie and Kerry keep trying.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me… 2 noisy pigeons…
I woke one morning to a pair of pigeons proudly sitting on top of the wardrobe in our bedroom. Now, I usually love visitors but I didn’t particularly appreciate these 2 legged ones and they quickly got sent away! But, it did get me thinking of the unexpected knock on the door the day before.
With arms full of the day’s washing when it happened – I quickly chucked it on the bed, shut the door and rushed to open the front door. In came 2 Bengali women – one whom I had met a few weeks before, who quickly introduced me to Roshni, a quiet, beautiful younger woman. Sitting on the floor together, sipping a cup of “cha” (Indian tea) I heard Roshni’s story.
Married at 13, a mother by 15 and now with 2 sons, abandoned by her husband and with no means of support she had come to town contemplating entering the sex-trade as a last resort to provide for her sons. A mother’s sacrifice – all too common a reality of women I have come to admire. Our mutual acquaintance had heard of the work of Freeset in Calcutta and knew we had moved north to start new freedom businesses here, too. Her concern for this young lady was evident and a reminder to me of why we have come north, where so many girls that in up in the brothels in Calcutta come from.
So back to the pigeons – not the gift I appreciated – but a gift I *will* treasure – new beginnings and new friends. May my door always remain open for those like Roshni.
(PS – we have each others phone numbers, and Roshni knows where I live. May it be the start of her freedom journey!)
So why are we so vigilant about selling bags and t-shirts here in the US? So that women like Roshni can have a job other than prostitution. We have been given so much, and with great blessing comes great responsibility to speak up for and work for those who can’t do it themselves. Women like Roshni need our help.
The best way to support Roshni and so many other women like her is to give them a job with dignity. When you purchase a Freeset product, you keep the Freeset business going. Christmas shipping is in full swing around the Freeset warehouse. There is still time to order for Christmas. And we are offering our readers a CyberMonday deal! Use code cyber50 to receive FREE SHIPPING ON ORDERS OVER $50.