It is National Sewing Month and here at Made for Freedom we want to celebrate it by featuring some of our partners, this week we are featuring Freeset.
In 1999 Kerry and Annie Hilton left New Zealand and moved to Kolkata, one of the largest sex trafficking districts in Bangladesh. They lived in one of the busiest red light districts where over 10,000 women sell themselves every day. Kerry and Annie noticed this and found a desire to help these women find dignified employment. Kerry and Annie started Freeset in 2001. The idea was to create bags that could be useful and they would be created by women coming out of sex trafficking. At first, they only had an output of 2 bags each a day. Now they make over a 1,000 bags a day. The women are paid more than double the minimum wage, are employed full time with health insurance and a pension plan. The health insurance is a blessing as some women coming out of sex trade and marginalized situations are dealing with HIV and may need psychological treatments. Women who find freedom through Freeset bring that back to their family. They find hope for a brighter future and, through the help of Freeset, are able to make it a reality not a dream. Freeset has grown and it has created a positive effect on the community. A part of this community has emerged calling itself the “Freeset family.” This family not only creates and supports each other, but also has a powerful effect on the community.
A story from Deb who is the daughter of a sex trade mother and employee for Freeset. When Debi was young her mother worked in sex trade for income for her and her brother. Debi always found this very difficult growing up, as customers were all around her home. She would have to stay in her room all day. She was not able to study because of her confinement and soon she would have to run the house while her mother worked. She dreamed of marriage since that was a way to not follow in her mother’s footsteps. However, her mother could not afford for her to get married. Debi was determined to save enough to accomplish her dream. Kerry and Annie were located close to where Debi lived, growing up she would talk to them. One day she asked Kerry can I come work at Freeset. Kerry gladly welcomed her, she began working at Freeset, and saved as much as she could. Debi was able to get married and also support her mother so her mother could be less involved in sex trade for income. These are the stories of hope Made for Freedom love to hear. We are inspired by Debi and Freeset`s difference they are making in Kolkata.