Halfway across the world, tucked away in the red light district of Kolkata, India, is a clothing business that rescues women from the devastating cycle of human trafficking and sex trade by hiring them to work for double the minimum wage.
Freeset is an organic bag and T-shirt manufacturer whose purpose is to provide enslaved women with a way out. The women are hired to manufacture items whose proceeds directly help them return to a healthy and happy lifestyle.
Amber Aureden is bringing Freeset’s mission of hope and freedom to Temple. She’s currently selling Freeset T-shirts on campus, and is planning to become an official distributor of their products in the near future.
Amber learned about Freeset in 2009 when she met the founder, Kerry Hilton, while attending a conference addressing alternative business models. She credits the meeting with opening her eyes to a business approach that changed her life.
“I was really discouraged about the disparity between what we read in the textbooks and the reality of the economy and corporate corruption,” Amber said. “This company inspired me that there are successful alternative business models that benefit the triple bottom line: good for the environment, people and profit.”
Although Freeset is essentially a humanitarian effort, it does create a profit for itself and its employees, which appealed to Amber.
“Not only do they give them a job with a good wage, but they give them an education, healthcare and a pension,” Amber said. “They’re really taking these women and empowering them to know that they have other skill sets that they can do. They don’t have to rely on selling their bodies to survive.”
In India, and many other places around the world, women and children are forced into prostitution and face a life without choices. Amber said some of them remain in the unfortunate lifestyle because they feel they have no way out.
“Freeset is located physically in the largest red light district in Kolkata, which is dedicated to prostitution,” Amber said. “The women know they have a better alternative to them should they choose it, and there has been big success of women making that step.”
Amber is in the process of incorporating her own alternative business, Mukti Imports, which will distribute Freeset products and other items from social enterprises. She hopes Freeset and her business plan will inspire other students.
“I would like other students to be aware of this different approach, an alternative plan,” Amber said. “It’s a real-life example of a different way to have real impact and still make money.”
– Matt Finn
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