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Posted by: Hannah Pound
Feb 24, 2012
I’ve had to wrestle a lot with this blog. I hope you do too.
In late July of 2011 I had the privilege of learning from a business community called Freeset. All I did was intern there for five months, playing a microscopic part in the local sales and graphics design department. But through the role I watched and interacted with women and children that were daily striving to redefine what human worth looked like in their community. This area, these women, this community was not one that you could walk in and out of ever forgetting. The problem in the area is distinctive because it’s awful. The solution within the alternative business Freeset, is distinctive because it works! The area and the stories chiseled within it don’t just break little pieces of your heart, the combination breaks the whole thing.
Ten thousand women enslaved and crammed into the corners and cracks of hundred year old buildings - physically, mentally and emotionally wasting away. These are the consequences these women have to pay, for a life that they did not chose. Trafficked, beaten, raped and having their life put a price tag upon. Horrendous circumstances bring them to where they are. Poverty, causing parents to literally sell one of their children’s lives into the hands of traffickers so that they can feed the rest of their kids just a little longer. Sisters that become entirely responsible for maintaining the lives of their siblings because their parents have either left or passed away. Generation after generation of women enslaved because great-grandma, grandma and mum had no other life they could give. Whatever her story is, she has one to tell. She’s raped by people she has never known and people she will never see again and she’s being raped for as little as thirty cents. She is used over and over again, every day. As if she’s dispensable. When holidays come around, she works overtime while everyone else enjoys their holiday. Oh, and did I mention, she can have had this lifestyle set in place by the age of twelve?
One of the saddest days for me in my time spent in India was on its Independence Day, 15th of August. Since it’s a day off from work, where do you think people swarmed to express their ‘independence’? An area where thousands of women did not celebrated freedom that day. As the fireworks went off and music blared and people celebrated, lives were furthermore trampled on and trust abolished.
But then: Freeset. As I spent time there I watched as women entered into those freedom doors for the first and the thousandth time. When a woman first starts working at Freeset, everyone can tell that she’s new. There are close to two hundred women working there so remembering absolutely everyone is difficult, though you cannot mistake the face of a new comer. I saw the brokenness and numbness in these women’s faces - and I saw all that fade away. I watched as the overflow of their pain consumed them and kept them quiet. I watched as joy crept in and how it curved at their mouths and how that started a quick infection of smiles all around. I heard the voices that sang loudly because they loved that they had the freedom to be loud and sing what they wanted to. I heard women awkwardly learn to laugh again, as they previously had not much practice. I watched women find value and identifying their new trade of making bags and tees. How the passion stirred within them from the new lifestyle they were at liberty to live! Women discover who they are on their own terms at Freeset. No one tells them who they must be. They’re not forced into anything.
I watched as women celebrated the 10th birthday of Freeset with dancing and cheering. I watched freedom bloom and hope consume in meetings where the CEO said things such as, “Beautiful things are not created to be trampled on.” Where the founders of Freeset that have lived in the area for twelve years, treated everyday as passionately as I imagine they did on their first.
I have walked away from my time in the Freeset business and community taking more from it than I could ever give. I have been taught so much by the women and further staff. But my journey does not end here. Enslavement is no longer distant, I know her because my friends knows her. I am angry my friends are not ‘allowed’ to make simple every day decisions such as what they will eat or who they will have sex with. It is the start of a life that looks for justice and a life that will look for her beautiful eyes that need it.
Broken dwells outside my doors. Broken uses two hands and feet. Broken needs the equivalent her companions do to exist. But it is not a brokenness that I’ve experienced in the flesh, and yet her stories have ruined me. Broken is not only who she has found her identity to be, it is who she has envisioned herself as always being. The community rising within the Freeset business brings hope. It is transforming a ‘red light’ community with women that are raising up ‘stoplights.’
Let’s kick into gear and do something for freedom, for hope.
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