Freeset - News

April 2010 Newsletter

Apr 6, 2010

What happens when the economic crisis meets the sex industry in Kolkata? Freeset welcomes more women on their journey toward freedom. Building renovations continue with the help of enthusiastic volunteers. Plus, the Meyers join the Freeset team.

Download April 2010 Newsletter [800KB PDF].

A different perspective on the economic crisis

Chili Davis said: Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. It makes sense to those of us getting on a bit. To be able to hold on to, despite advancing years, some of the good things about being young for just a little while longer.

I can remember playing rugby with a whole bunch of guys in New Zealand, all of us well past our prime. Although older, I could remember how to play and move like it was yesterday. The problem was that although my mind was fresh my body wasn't. The body wouldn't do what my mind thought it could. But, it was fun.
More younger girls are lining the lanes of Sonagacchi
What isn't fun, is walking around Sonagacchi watching older women putting their bodies on sale knowing most customers will pass them by. Many look much older than they actually are. Looking worn and tired they drag their bodies onto the street day after day just to get enough to eat.

And then there are those at the opposite end of their lives. Little girls forced to use their immature bodies in ways they should never have to. Some of them are so young their owners can't put them on the street. Locked in rooms that become their entire world, customers are escorted to them having just purchased their virginity for the 100th time.

So, I've been asking myself, why is it that younger girls are hitting the streets in greater numbers than I've ever seen in ten years? Why are Madams risking unwanted attention by putting 15 & 16 year old girls on display at street level? The only conclusion I can come to is that business is not good. The economic crisis has impacted the sex industry just like other sectors. Fewer customers mean greater competition and lower rates. Good for the customer, in a sad sort of way, but not so good for those who own and operate brothels let alone young girls who are forced to service more customers to make up for the shortfall. For the sake of business, Madams are putting their merchandise right in front of the customer's nose at street level. Of course the unwanted police attention has to be paid off and it is built into the service cost.

In the last month, two 13 year old girls have come to Freeset looking for work. The problem is we can't legally employ girls under 16 so we can't offer them a job. But, listen to what they will be hearing, "No we can't give you a job because you are too young. The only option you have is to sell that young body of yours". Clearly this is not the answer and we are working on alternatives. The problem is every day 13 year old girls are entering the trade.

A couple of weeks ago a 25 year old woman came to Freeset desperately wanting to be free. Her husband had put her into a brothel. She wants to work at Freeset but can't leave her three daughters aged 11½, 9 & 7 alone at home. Her husband has already threatened to sell the oldest one.

Growing old is mandatory, for some there is no option but to grow up fast.


New Trainees

Almost every day women who want to be free from the trade come to Freeset. They sit in the courtyard and wait to be considered. It's easy to tell who they are because they look nervous and don't smile. We wish we could hire them all.

However, there's quite a bit more to the process than just giving them a job. Their particular circumstances have to be looked at from many angles. They are visited at home to evaluate their situation. Are they currently in the sex trade or in great danger of entering the trade?

Is there a madam, a mother, brother, etc., who receives their earnings and might not want them to be free? Do they owe money to a loan shark or landlord? Do they need to move out of a brothel to a different room before they can leave the trade? It's a complicated process. Kerry and Mena put a great deal of effort into evaluating individual situations and helping each woman untangle the knot that is her life. Twenty-five trainees have nearly completed their three months training program and are moving into bag production soon.

Building Update

Pouring concrete for the renovations of the new building
What began as a casual comment on a YouTube Freeset Building Update has reaped outstanding results! Team after team have arrived in the past couple of months to work on the renovations of Freeset's newly purchased building.

Construction project managers, electricians, civil engineers, builders, construction supervisors; plus a whole lot of others just willing to work hard, sweat buckets, and do whatever is needed! A lot has been accomplished, but there's still a very long way to go.

So, tradesmen, we can still use you!

Volunteers helping with renovations of the new building

The Meyers Arrive

We are pleased to welcome Neels and Esme Meyer to the Freeset community. The Meyers have a head start on their adjustment to Kolkata since they spent eight years in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. They are fluent in Hindi but hope to add Bengali to their assortment of languages soon. Neels and Esme are originally from South Africa, so Bengali will be their fourth language!

The Meyers In Varanasi, Esme managed a retail homefinishing store and coffee shop that employed women and men in intense poverty. Her managerial skills are being put to good use in Freeset's t-shirt unit. Esme is very creative and loves making things beautiful.

Neels formerly managed a screen printing unit in Varanasi that produced paper products and T-shirts. Obviously it won't be difficult to keep him busy at Freeset as well! He is of great use already in the screen printing department and is always ready to help wherever it's needed.

Their reaction so far? "We love being part of Freeset and watching the growth of the ladies!"

Learning opportunities

English and guitar lessons
English lessons and guitar classes are currently being offered to all of the women in the Freeset community who are interested. They love to practice as they walk past English speakers!

Check out the new Freeset promo video! Hear women talk about how working at Freeset has impacted their lives.

The new memento bag

New design for 2010!

Check out our range of stock bags*. Shown here is the all new "Memento" bag with cane handles and the wildflower print. (Now discontinued)

*Sorry but not all bags are available in all regions.

Please contact if you have any questions or feedback regarding this newsletter.