When I Kristi at Relevant this year, it was the first time I had ever heard of Freeset. Freeset, is an amazing organization that provides jobs for women who seek freedom from the sex-trade in Calcutta. The women at Freeset make these really beautiful bags, which they are able to sell to help keep Freeset open and continuing to provide jobs for other women in need.Kristi works as an Advocate with Freeset and led one of the workshops at Relevant on Social Justice. When she asked me if I would highlight one woman’s story here, I was thrilled to do so.
The truth is, that the struggle against poverty, human trafficking, slavery, and other attrocities, can feel completely overwhelming. But one person, you, me, we can make a difference. Every little thing we can do, does make a difference. I pray that you would seek the Lord as you read this story, and determine if and how he may be calling you to be involved.
Vijaya was cautious when approached by a foreign couple offering the prospect of work 10 years ago. She remembers, “Many foreigners came to visit us, made promises but never did anything for us. So I couldn’t trust the Hilton’s fully at the first meeting. I had seen them on the street several times and intended to talk to them but never had the courage to take that first step.”The fair-trade bag factory they were proposing sounded good, but as she looked around her middle-aged peers she wasn’t entirely convinced, “Do you think it is possible for us to learn how to make bags at our age?”, she asked.Vijaya managed to set aside her reservations and 10 years on she is proud to be able to say,“Today we all get our basic needs by working in this place. Women with zero level of literacy are getting paid more than Rs3000 (US$60) per month.”Decades earlier as a young girl she was trafficked from Bangladesh to Calcutta, India. While she had managed to leave the sex trade with the support of her husband before Freeset came along, she had not been able to shake its stigma. She spent her time doing voluntary community work with a local NGO in the Sonagacchi red-light area. At that time – if she was paid at all – she might receive a measly Rs300 (US$6) per month, scarcely enough to live on.Her concern for her community has not lessened over the years and she has become a key member of the Freeset family. She is a mentor, an advocate and a community changer. “My present job involves me taking care of all the women. I can never stop thinking about the women in the line. I want the struggle we made to make a difference in the lives of future generations.”
Vijaya is clear about what a job at Freeset means for women who have been caught up in the sex trade, “The difference between Freeset and other jobs is that women in the line are considered totally untouchable by other employers in our society. We are not considered regular human beings in this society. In contrast to that Freeset is providing an identity to these women by offering them jobs.”
Freeset is located in Calcutta, India, helping to free women from human trafficking by providing them employment with dignity through sewing bags. Every woman is provided medical insurance, retirement, daycare for their children, classes to learn how to read and write, and three times the wage they would receive "in line." Join us every day December 1-12 in Freeset's Freedom Tour of 12 Days of Freedom with Freeset and become a part of the freedom story. Watch our video, shop our bags, change lives..
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