Join us on Friday 6th October for an evening with Freeset – one of our partners.
Freeset is a fair trade business . It offers employment to women trapped in Kolkata’s sex trade. We make jute bags and organic cotton t-shirts, but our business is freedom! We would like to see the 10,000 sex workers in our neighborhood empowered with the choice of leaving a profession they never chose in the first place.
What is Freeset
Freeset exists to provide freedom for women from the sex trade. Women who were forced into prostitution by trafficking or poverty. These women didn’t choose their profession. It was chosen for them. Now, they’re being offered a real choice. When they choose to work at Freeset, they can start new lives and regain dignity in their communities. They begin a journey towards healing and wholeness.
All profits from Freeset in Kolkata benefit the women (salary, health insurance and retirement plan) and are used to grow the business. This means more women can be employed and experience freedom. The great thing is, when you buy a Freeset product, you directly participate in a woman’s journey to freedom.
An upside down business model
Freeset uses an “upside down” model that turns the normal principles of running a business on their head. Here, women are employed on the basis of their need for freedom, rather than their qualifications. Many have had little or no schooling. They are trained and then paid well above the going market rate. The transformation in women’s lives is clearly apparent, simply because they’ve been given a chance.
The women actively engage in running the business. They have their own committee which liaises with management to ensure their voices are heard. This committee has the final say over many internal decisions and issues relating to employees.
Although a business, this is also a community. The women are often dealing with health problems (including HIV/AIDS), and psychological effects from abuse and exclusion from society. This makes for a challenging workplace and much effort is put into creating a compassionate environment where the women are supported and their needs met.
However, Freeset isn’t just about the transformation of individual lives; it’s also about transformation of the wider community. The Freeset women leave the sex trade but continue to live in their old rooms and neighborhood. They are agents of change. The dream is that some day the largest, most infamous sex district in Kolkata will be transformed. It will be a safe community that respects the dignity of women and offers new opportunities to their children.