The story we have to share today comes from the company we source our t-shirts from, Freeset Global. Freeset is a company located right smack dab in the red light district in Kolkata, India. They reach out to women who are working in brothels and offer them job skills, training, and a job that pays a living wage and offers health insurance and a pension plan. Freeset also works to help women recover from the trauma of being exploited and allows them a voice in the way the business is run. 160 women are currently being offered dignified employment making shirts and bags in their center in Kolkata.
[Photo from a different restorative center in Kolkata]
Priyanka's* story begins with heartbreak. At 13 years old (picture yourself at 13 - got it?), her father gave her to a much older man in marriage. That man treated her like a house servant, and his family didn't treat her any better. One day when she was in the family's field, her mother-in-law accepted money from a group of men in exchange for her permission to gang rape Priyanka.
Priyanka was so ashamed that she went to an uncle's house for protection. He cared for her for a few days then suggested that she start a new life. After the shame of rape, his idea of a new life was to sell her to a brothel in Kolkata.
After years of working in the red light district, she heard about Freeset and went to check it out. This is where she truly began a new life. Priyanka learned sewing skills and regained her sense of self-value at Freeset. After she had worked there for a while, she started going back to the brothels where she used to work, telling the women there that they, too, could have a job that offered dignity and a way to provide for themselves while having agency.
Now Priyanka is starting her own business to teach women to weave, offering the same kind of dignified employment that Freeset offered her. Dignity empowers!