Freeset, located in the Kolkata red light district, has a mission identical to hundreds of other anti-trafficking groups around the world. As stated on their website, they “… 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.” From 2001, Freeset has helped workers leave the sex trade by offering the alternative livelihood of manufacturing bags for export. Freeset offers girls an alternative lifestyle while still remaining inside the brothels.
Of course when I learned about Freeset’s model, my mind raced with a million questions. Can a girl live in a brothel and not be part of the sex trade? Can they help to effect change from the inside? Is this a model that other groups should emulate? As we fight to end modern slavery, it is important to learn what all of us are doing to combat the evil. We learn from each other, good or bad. An educated anti trafficking group is by definition a better trafficking group.
Freeset’s model may be unappealing at first blush but it has a proven track record. Its success should teach us to learn so that we avoid the pitfalls of applying our experiences in a foreign land. How many of us have even been to Kolkata? How many of us can even understand how desperate a worker might be. Doesn’t Freeset teach us that even an ex-sex trade worker needs a livelihood? Isn’t that obvious?
For myself, I admit the Freeset model wouldn’t have been my first suggestion, and perhaps not even in my top 100. That failure of imagination reflects poorly on me. Now that I know of Freeset, I want to learn more, do more, and I never want to forget that real people need real help starting with food, shelter, and dignity. I will accomplish success before I ever give in, no matter the price or the time.
To learn more about Freeset and the work they do, please click here.
Image from freesetglobal.com