Freeset Fabrics: Our journey so far
When Janet Rogers first visited Murshidabad, what she saw altered her life in an unexpected way. 2014 went on to become a remarkable year not only for her, but also for the first 7 women who decided to weave a new path for freedom.
“If I did not work here at Freeset Fabrics, my family and I would all die from poverty.”
Within 2 years of weaving scarves, she is now one of the best weavers at Freeset Fabrics. She’s extremely motivated and encouraged by the impact working at Freeset Fabrics has created in her life. She’s able to buy nutritious food for her two daughters, pay for her mother’s operation, install a water tap in her home, and now plans to build a new home. She has dreams! Despite being in a culture that struggles with seeing a woman equal to a man, Aruna realized for herself that she is equal to a man. She understands her value as an individual and as a woman now.
This story is one of many reasons why Freeset Business Incubator initiated Freeset Fabrics in Sherpur, Murshidabad in 2014. Read the exclusive interview with Janet Rogers, Freeset Fabrics’ Product Developer and Designer, to learn how Freeset Fabrics is changing the lives of others.
Q: Why did you choose weaving for Freeset Fabrics?
A: Weaving is a great tradition in Murshidabad, particularly hand loom weaving, which is a craft India is renowned for. With hand loom, there are so many hands involved with all the processes that we have the potential to offer more employment to more women, which is our goal.
Q: Why was Freeset Fabrics built in Murshidabad?
A: Over time we have learned that a large proportion of the women in Sonagacchi (Kolkata) actually come from the villages here in Murshidabad. It was they who were inspired and motivated Freeset to start a freedom business here.
Q: Why does trafficking occur in Murshidabad?
A: Poverty is the main driver for trafficking. Murshidabad is predominantly an agricultural area. In most communities there’s paid work for only about 3 months of the year, and that does not provide enough for a family to live. You can see how they become so desperate and vulnerable they end up having to consider, “Do we send our daughter(s) to Kolkata?”
Q: How has Freeset Fabrics identified women who are vulnerable to being trafficked?
A: We work with Tamar to identify women in the villages who are most vulnerable to being trafficked. Some of our own recruiters are Freeset women who have gone through similar experiences and can understand the situation. Over time we built relationships with families in the surrounding villages and visited their homes to get to know them more. We realized there were many women with huge potential but no opportunity up until then – they were excited at the prospect of learning a new skill and being able to earn a good income. That was a real turning point - a spark, that there was something that women could do to contribute to their own future as well as for their family and community.
Q: How has Freeset Fabrics grown since it started in 2014?
A: We started with 7 women and in just over two years we’ve grown to almost 50. It’s taken time to build trust in this community, but now we have a waiting list of more than 600 women who would like to be offered the opportunity to work here.
Q: What does Freeset Fabrics hope for the future?
A: We want to see the women and the communities of Murshidabad empowered as a whole. Freeset’s vision is to create jobs for 10,000 women. To make a scarf you need at least 10 pairs of hands. We’re on the road now to actually seeing that happen. The economic side of things will get better, allowing more spending power in the villages; children can have a better education and they will also have better nutrition and health. Our hope is that in 10 years, we will look back and say, “We’re still on a journey, but look how far we have come. We’ve got further to go, but we’re in this together…”
While acknowledging that employment is not the only answer to the troubles of women in rural India, it can play a significant role in effecting positive change. You, as a customer can contribute to this transformation by purchasing the products the women at Freeset Fabrics make.
Help women like Aruna weave freedom. To learn more visit, www.freesetfabrics.com.