Freeset

 

If you’re already a subscriber of Journey to “Green” you will know that I love reusable bags. I love bags, period. With all of the “stuff” that there is to keep up with, you can never have too many. Not to mention, Stacy London says, “Personal style is all about the accessories.” Yes, I have an autographed photo of Stacy London – one of my prize possessions. Freeset captured my heart not only because of the quality and beauty of the bags, but because of their mission. Kerry and Annie Hilton have given women in India an alternative way to earn a living for their families that doesn’t involve selling their bodies for sex.

ABOUT FREESET:

Freeset is located in Sonagacchi, the largest, most infamous sex district in Kolkata, India. Within a few square miles more than 10,000 women “stand in line” selling their bodies to thousands of men who visit daily. Many are trafficked from Bangladesh, Nepal and rural India. For others poverty has left them without options. The cries of their hungry children drive them to sell their bodies.

To make a difference that would bring real freedom for these women, the Hiltons began to understand there needed to be a business alternative. Women could be trained with new skills for a new job and empowered with life-skills needed to appreciate freedom. After experimenting with different products and testing the market, they decided to make jute bags for the export market.

Freeset opened its doors in 2001 with twenty women brave enough to trust a couple of foreigners and seize the opportunity to leave the sex trade behind. Priya Mishra, an Indian doctor working in the community played a key role in facilitating that trust and helping to grow the business.

It was hard work teaching unskilled women to sew at a quality acceptable for the export market. Some could barely use a pair of scissors and in those early days the average daily output was less than two bags each. Would you believe some of the bags were sewn inside out and upside down!

These problems have been over-come with training, a lot of patience and quality control systems. While many of the women are still not the fastest sewers, the business now produces around 1000 bags a day. Consistent quality is important for Freeset to be a competitive, self sustaining business that is able to break the cycle of poverty and exploitation for these women once and for all.

The women are paid around twice the going rate for an equivalent job elsewhere and as part of their employment package have health insurance and a pension plan. Soucharita is employed full-time to ensure that staff are able to access their health insurance entitlements.

I received three bags to try and to enjoy. They were:

  • The Farmhouse Bag (featuring: Recycled sari trim on bag exterior, matching sari-lined jute shoulder strap, 2 internal pockets and purse)
  • Harmony bag – petals print in black ( Cotton lined jute handles, black cotton lining with pocket, 2-color red petals print)
  • Simplicity bag – plain

I love that they are all handmade and unique. I feel honored to carry them, really. I think that Freeset is doing such an amazing thing for these women and I get to carry a little piece of their lives with me. I love that they are made of eco-friendly jute, though the jute is “scratchy” in feeling. It’s not a soft fabric by any means, but they are sturdy and spacious. The Simplicity would make a great deep bag for multiple wine bottles, but it’s currently housing some craft magazines. I carried the Farmhouse for the first time on a trek across UNCC. It held all my files, notebooks, and more. It will make a great bookbag. The Harmony has made a great purse that works well with my Joey Junior organizer.

To read more about their story or to purchase your own Freeset bag, check them out on the web!

View this pdf on their custom bags:

Custom Bag Guide 2010-USA

I received these products free of charge and all opinions expressed are my own.

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About palaciosamantha
I'm a Social Media Manager for a large home decor company who enjoys staying current in trends in both the fashion and home industries. I have a passion for writing, art journaling, expressive painting, and photography. My greatest loves are my two children.

One Response to Freeset

  1. Cara Nitz says:

    What a beautiful product! I would feel honored to support them as well! Thanks for sharing!

    Cara

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