Local pastor shines light on human trafficking
Introduced as guest speaker at the August meeting was Grant Harris, currently Senior Pastor of the Windsor Park Baptist Church situated on the North Shore, Auckland, as well as Chaplain to the Sky City NZ Breakers Basketball Team. It was in yet a further role, that of Chairman of the Board of Freeset International, that he addressed Rebus members.
Grant referred to historical legislative changes that saw the abolition of slavery, but added that human slavery is still a huge problem across the world with millions of people being ‘trafficked’ of whom around 800,000 are women and children. Nowhere is this more evident than in Sonagachi, Kolkata, where around 10,000 women are prostitutes.
It was in 2001 that Freeset, with a focus on providing women with a choice of economic empowerment outside of prostitution, opened business in India to teach women to sew and construct items for export. Today there are between 200 and 300 women actively engaged in producing jute bags and t-shirts and the long-term aim is to employ many more in similar income-return projects. To this end Freeset recently purchased a large building in Sonagachi. The building is currently being renovated and converted into a work centre for women who choose freedom for themselves and their children.
Grant confirmed that the sale of Freeset products comes under the Fair Trade umbrella – workers do not have to fear intimidation at any level, the organisation is subject to official scrutiny and adheres to local regulations and taxation obligations.
The Freeset ‘model’ is one of only few trade operations that have been allowed to continue business in India. A large number of New Zealanders from various organisations support Freeset and raise funds for projects with which they are involved.
Human and social implications, particularly as they relate to women, were something not all Rebus members were aware of, and to hear at first-hand that the situation is being addressed in such a positive way through Freeset was appreciated and Grant’s personal commitment warmly acknowledged.
n Want to know more about Mangawhai Combined Rebus Club? Meet every third Thursday of the month in the Senior Citizens’ Hall, Fagan Place, Mangawhai Heads at 2pm. Visitors welcome. Contact Gaylene Lawrence 431 5617 or Beve Smith 431 5777 for more details.