Freeset Setting Women Free

In 1999 Kerry and Annie Hilton left New Zealand with their four children and moved to Kolkata, India to work and live amongst the poor. Naively, they signed up for an apartment in the middle of the day.

It was only when Kerry was taking a walk at night that he discovered they had moved into the largest red light area in the city. Their new neighbours were thousands of women forced into prostitution by trafficking and poverty. That was the beginning of a business named Freeset.

Freeset is located in Sonagacchi, the largest, most infamous sex district in Kolkata, India. Within a few square miles more than 10,000 women stand in line selling their bodies to thousands of men who visit daily. Many are trafficked from Bangladesh, Nepal and rural India. For others poverty has left them without options. The cries of their hungry children drive them to sell their bodies.

At thirteen, Sonali* was stolen from her village, dragged to the back streets of Sonagacchi and sold into prostitution. Her first customer drugged and raped her unconscious body.

Bashanti*, a daughter of poverty-stricken parents, was sold into the sex trade by her mother, sacrificed so the rest of the family could eat.

In India, prostitution is big business and thrives on exploitation and slavery, robbing the poor of dignity and innocence. (*Names have been changed.)

Freeset is a way of helping women escape a demeaning and exploitative life by giving them work making products which are sold around the world.

Freeset is a fair trade business offering employment to women trapped in Kolkata’s sex trade. We make quality 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.

I had the privilege of speaking to Kerry on my radio program this morning about the work that Freeset does and their plans for the future. You can hear our conversation by clicking the play button on the audio player at the bottom of this post.

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Tim Costello Talks About Child Rescue

Tim CostelloHow do you teach a child to trust again when her own family has sold her into prostitution? How do you give hope to a child who has been forced to kill others, perhaps members of his own family, as a child soldier? How do you rescue a child who has been trafficked into slavery, exploited and abused?

Most of us couldn’t even begin to imagine our own children facing such horrific circumstances but maybe we need to try so that we can get a sense of the urgency and desperation of the situations that millions of children are facing.

Over many years Tim Costello has been the voice of social conscience for many Australians, having led debates on issues such as gambling, urban poverty, homelessness, reconciliation and substance abuse. He’s someone who takes the often talked about Aussie value of ‘giving everyone a fair go’ and gives it a practical expression.

As CEO of World Vision Australia, Tim leads an organisation of almost 600 staff, with an annual income of about $350 million.

Through World Vision, Australians are sponsoring a staggering 400 000 overseas children.

I phoned Tim during my radio program on 98.5 Sonshine FM today to talk about some of the children that regular sponsorship can’t reach. We talked about World Vision Child Rescue and how it is having an amazing effect for some of the world’s most vulnerable children.

Can I urge you to listen to our discussion and let your heart be touched by the need? Just click the play button on the audio player at the bottom of this post.

Can I also encourage you to click any of the buttons below this post to share the carnival on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon or any of the other sites represented. The need is urgent and it’s important that we get the message out.


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