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Using business - to facilitate freedom 
 

Interested in starting a business that transforms lives? Come and see how it's been done in West Bengal, India. By Jon Conway  

 


Walking through the streets that house the local brothels in Kolkata is a sobering experience. Literally hundreds of women line the streets, waiting to be chosen by the scores of men who visit the area each night. Sitting with some of these women and hearing their stories is transforming the perspectives of a growing number of people from the UK, particularly those from our Baptist family.
 
Come with me down a narrow side street, squeezing past Hindu gods being prepared for the next Puja, dodging stray dogs, motorbikes and people. We turn into the entrance of a big, run-down looking house. What we find is striking. Hundreds of women sitting on the floor, dressed in bright Indian clothing, all gathering for the morning factory meeting. Coloured saris hanging from the balustrades of this courtyard building emphasize the brightness of the vibrant community of women, all empowered to be free from trafficking and slavery. After half an hour the group disperses into rooms around the building.
 
Freeset began here, in Sonagachi, one of Asia’s largest red-light areas with an estimated 10,000 sex workers, many of whom were taken from homes in villages and communities across West Bengal. Freeset empowers women by providing choice in an environment where there has been none. After a 12-week training programme the participants join the factory in making high quality, organic, fairly traded bags and apparel.

Freeset705
 
As awareness of Freeset and the concept of a Freedom Business has grown around the world, Freeset has developed a three-week “Freedom Encounter”. It is an opportunity for those who want to learn about the concept of Freedom business to immerse themselves in the world and, to some degree, the experience of those who long for freedom.
 
“F” from Bristol took part in the course before she took up a post alongside women who are still working in the trade and beginning to take baby steps in their Freedom journey. She says,

 


'The Freedom Encounter was a great opportunity to challenge and develop my theology. Exploring the context of human trafficking and forced prostitution compelled me to expand my understanding.'

 

Her husband joined her on the course and commented,

 


'The Encounter was a really thought-provoking and challenging course journeying with others for three weeks from five countries. I found the theological discussions focussing on who the ‘outsider’ was 2000 years ago and then applying this to the community of the red light area revelatory.'

 
The Freedom Encounter is an experiential learning course designed to expose people to the idea of using business to facilitate freedom – specifically in communities living in the shadow of human trafficking.
 
If you want to see the transformation in communities which are vulnerable to trafficking, and want to learn how business can be a powerful tool to achieve positive change, this is the course for you!

Several of the graduates of the course have gone on to apply what they have learned in the UK. Transformation in local communities affected by poverty can happen here in the UK. John went on to work for social enterprises based in some of the most excluded communities in the UK. He says, 
 


'Social Enterprise is an amazing tool for the transformation of lives here in the UK. When you combine it with a belief that people can experience change socially and spiritually it becomes a wholistic enterprise. It’s brilliant!

'The freedom encounter was an ‘Aha!’ moment for me and changed the direction of my life and work.'



Whether you’re 20 or 65 and up for an adventure, you’ll fit right in. It’s a great opportunity to connect with people from around the world looking to discover their role in bringing freedom to others.
 

More information can be found here: freesetglobal.com/take-a-course or at freesetglobal.com


Jon Conway is a social entrepreneur and a member of the Baptist family

 

 

Baptist Times, 22/06/2018
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