For Freedom
by Jen Hatmaker on December 11th, 2012

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners..."
~Isaiah 61:1

This month, I'm freshly reminded that so many of the fancy products that we'll buy, wrapped in darling brown paper and tied with elaborate bows were made by the hands of slaves. It is one the greatest tragedies of our generation; 27 million slaves forced to supply the consumer machine for rich people with money to burn, addicted to artificially low prices.

This is absolutely an injustice we can fight. Absolutely. We have all the power here actually: consumer power. At the root of slave labor is one driving motive: profits. This is a supply and demand issue, and if we insist on demanding our goodies without carefully and responsibly scrutinizing the supply chain, I truly believe we'll answer for it one day. We can do better. We must.

So it with great joy I get to showcase organizations like Freeset, where you and I can find beautiful, well-crafted products while simultaneously fighting human trafficking.

Freeset is in business for freedom. Freedom from human trafficking. Freeset is a fair trade business that sells bags and t-shirts, made by women freed from human trafficking in Calcutta, India. The women are able to have a job with dignity, making products, instead of being the product. Every woman receives three times the wage they would receive in line (the prostitution line), learn to read and write, daycare for their children, have medical insurance and retirement benefits. Women were tricked, trapped, or trade and find themselves seemingly without a choice. Their goal is to change the economic scope of Sonagacchi, Calcutta's largest red light district, to one of freedom, instead of the sex trade. Watch their video, buy their bags, change lives.

May I tell you about one of the Freeset workers, Nandita? Before working at Freeset, Nandita was trying to move out of the sex trade. She volunteered to distribute condoms among sex workers, as well as working as a house maid. They were tough years, “In those days we had to starve most of the time,” she says.

Ten years ago she was presented with the opportunity to join Freeset. As one of the original 20 women she remembers her feelings at the time, “I was hopeful but also skeptical about the job as I had never done any sewing before. I was also skeptical about Kerry and Annie (the founders of Freeset) as they were foreigners. Everybody used to make promises to pay us but we were never paid, except for a few months in seven years.” It was only when she started getting paid for her work at Freeset that Nandita allowed herself to really trust these foreigners that were making big promises.

Like many, Nandita found learning to use a pedal sewing machine difficult. “When I started sewing on a machine, I couldn’t do it - I could never sew straight - I had no control over the machine!  I couldn’t even hold the scissors properly. One time I scratched the marble floor while cutting ropes. I was not very good at sewing, but I am good at cutting and finishing bags, and I enjoy it.”

Nandita takes pride in the fact that she was one of the first 20 women who started Freeset and who have nurtured the business into what it is today. She dreams of Freeset becoming a place of freedom for many more women in the future, “People in the community can see Freeset has given a new life to the women in line. Freeset really helps the women in line who are getting old and can’t earn much anymore.”

These women are our sisters. They are mothers, like us. Daughters, like us. Wives and friends and neighbors, like us. Their souls are precious, their lives full of value. Their dreams and hopes are real, palpable like ours. Their children are beloved and deserve a life free of abuse and terror.

I am so proud of Freeset, speaking up for these women, stepping in, refusing apathy. Freedom doesn't come through good intentions and fairy dust. Freedom has always required a fight. Like our Savior who came to filthy earth, polluted, ruined, hopeless, and he fought the good fight for our liberation. He sweat, he bled, he suffered, and he won it.

He won it for us.

It was for freedom that He set us free.

Let's help win freedom for these sisters. Supply and demand still works here; the more we demand, the more jobs are created through this healthy supply chain interlaced with liberty. Let's direct our dollar with purpose, remembering it is a powerful tool, capable of calling an unjust system to reform and creating jobs and saying yes to freedom and no to slavery. We will not be complicit in abuse. The way we spend matters. May we never forget it.

And if you get this daaaaarling "Hope Bag" out of the deal, well, you can just have that cake and eat it too.
Thank you, Freeset, for your courageous example. Thank you for your work on behalf of our sisters in India. Thank you for refusing to sit on the sidelines, overwhelmed. Thank you for doing your part, for playing your note, for filling your spot. Thank you for showing us the way to freedom.

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Kelly King - December 11th, 2012 at 10:38 AM
Love FreeSet bags. Thanks for posting!
michelle - December 11th, 2012 at 11:11 AM
I love learning about all the amazing people out there doing such incredible work. Freeset is now on my radar. Thanks for the post!
Sarah - December 11th, 2012 at 11:30 AM
Thank you for continuing to write on this topic - it is really opening my eyes. I love all the fair trade companies that are popping up, but I can't wear trendy t-shirts to work. Is there a source for ethically-produced professional women's clothes (think Banana Republic-ish style) that you know of?
Krista - December 11th, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Hi Sarah!

Check out Maiyet ( They are a fashion-driven brand with a conscience.
EJ Philllips - December 11th, 2012 at 12:11 PM
Thanks Jen for solving my "what do I get my 8 nieces ranging from 11-16" for Christmas dilemma that is cute, ethically minded, and doesn't break this sibling group adopting Momma's bank. 3 sets of 3 Sari bracelets. (So yes, I get one too.). Win freakin' win.
Flowerpatch Farmgirl - December 11th, 2012 at 12:39 PM
They ARE our sisters! Not in a "Oh, yes, our dear, far-away, invisible sisters in Christ, blabbity blah..." They are our real, live sisters. Why did it take me so long to get it???
maria - December 11th, 2012 at 2:11 PM and are two other great sites to purchase fair trade products. also for writing on this very important topic. we can make a difference!
Pam - December 11th, 2012 at 2:39 PM
Freeset us a wonderful business that makes bags and produces freedom!!!! Join me in supporting them!
Kristi - December 11th, 2012 at 3:08 PM
So cool:) I snagged 4 of the bags that Ann Voskamp was talking about over on her blog today:)
Kristen - December 11th, 2012 at 5:26 PM also supports survivors of human trafficking and has tons of cool stuff.
Joy - December 11th, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Love Freeset!!! Got to hear the founders talk a few years ago. It was amazing!! Thanks for spreading the word:)
Matt @ The Church of No People - December 12th, 2012 at 5:26 AM
Thanks for sharing, Jen! I honestly think people will pay more for products when they know they are ethically sourced.
Connie - December 12th, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Thanks so much for posting about this! Just checked out the website and looking under "tees" linked me to It's all the same then?

Just wanted to check - my family asks for a "list" from us for Christmas. We all have so much and do not need more so have asked that they donate to our favorite charities in our name. They are having a hard time with this (I will spare you the gory details) so I have been listing items from worthy sites such as these. A friend is adopting so have been buying and listed items from and

Just want to make sure I direct them to the right place. Thanks again!
Sallie Howell - December 12th, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Thanks for sharing! Great organization
Marilyn B - December 17th, 2012 at 7:29 AM
I showed all 140 AP English juniors this video today in class. I have student council leaders and other club leaders in my class. They were encouraged to buy class shirts from Free Set rather than a local vendor. I wanted to remind them that there is a world outside of our small-ish town.
Just Marilynn - December 17th, 2012 at 8:01 PM
Thank you for being vulnerable, and expressing what so many of us are feeling. I went to work late today because I needed to hold my little man for just a little bit longer. I didn't realize why in the moment. Now, I see.
Tess Brown - December 27th, 2012 at 3:37 PM
Catching up on my blogs. Love this. Just spent my Christmas money buying bags :) I needed a new "bag" place to buy from. PERFECT!
Cassandra Hale - December 28th, 2012 at 7:16 AM
Thanks for shring this! I discovered Sak Saum, a similar program for women in Cambodia. Thirty-One is HUGE around here, but I cannot, in good conscience spend money on one of their purses when I could purchase one from India or Cambodia that can literally transform a life.
Grace Holt - January 10th, 2013 at 11:25 AM
I LOVE finding out about companies like these! I'm always ready to pass on the information to anyone that will listen. Some more great companies to check out: Sseko sandals (, JOYN (, and Radiant Cosmetics ( There's so many more I'd love to share with you as well, just hit me up on my blog or e-mail and I'll pass them along if you're interested!

Thanks for sharing!
Debbie Ashford - January 10th, 2013 at 1:53 PM
Jen, I loved all the sites you listed at the end of 7 and did a lot of my small amount of Christmas shopping from various ones. The products were fantastic. The receivers of these gifts were awed when they found out where they came from. It makes me cry with happiness to be able to purchase from these various groups. It's hard to be faithful to my pledge of reigning in my shopping! THANK YOU for your heart.
Diane Windle - October 4th, 2013 at 11:17 PM
Want to make a difference? "Better Way Imports" is a direct sales company that sells Freeset products and many more products from countries all over the globe. You can go to their website or email me directly at [email protected] It's a great way to partner with these women. "Do Good. Do Well"

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