They’re just a bunch of “crazy people”. Crazy people who swapped making coffees in their local Kingsland café Crave for a sixteen-day trip to India, as part of the charity Mad For Change.
The charity, which aims to alleviate poverty and prostitution in Kolkata, is working in conjunction with the aid organisation Freeset to build workplaces where women can be removed from the prostitution trade. Freeset ensures that the women are fairly paid for their work making goods such as bags and t-shirts.
“They don’t just offer them a job, they offer them a future and provide them with counselling for the trauma that they’ve experienced in life,” said Blue Bradley, co-owner of Crave café and Mad For Change spokesperson. “They get to work with dignity and some hope for the future.”
Mad For Change was born earlier this year out of the non-for profit prerogatives of what the café calls the ‘Crave Collective’. This ensures that all profits made by the business either go back into the local community or into programs alleviating world poverty.
“It’s really about us; not just one person running a cafe and earning enough money as they can, so that they can retire and buy a boat,” said Bradley.
The group travelled through the poverty-stricken cities of Kolkata and Murshidabad to visit existing Freeset workplaces. Their purpose was to discuss future partnership possibilities with Freeset and raise awareness of the cause back in New Zealand.
“What we didn’t do was have big, massive conversations with the women from the industry, because the last thing we want to do is grow from their expense,” Bradley stated. “I don’t need to hear that, I can see it.”
Murshidabad is one of the poorest regions in India, with only 10% employment for women. Statistics released by Mad For Change reveal that one particular area currently has over 10,000 prostitutes.
According to Bradley, such shocking statistics are a direct result of the economic instability in the area. “When parents think that it’s better for their child to be a prostitute and then sell them into that because of the lack of hope, that’s a bad, bad time,” asserted Bradley.
A recent tragedy in Murshidabad saw three twelve-year-old girls abducted on their way home from school. It is likely they will be forced into the prostitution trade in Kolkata.
“Imagine the outcry if three girls didn’t come home from school in New Zealand,” said Bradley. “Over there it’s lucky to have gotten in the papers. That’s reality, but it’s not uncommon.
“At the bottom end we’re trying to get girls out of the industry, but at the top end – preventative care. Trying to create enterprises that allow them not to ever have that horror,” Bradley said.
Alongside providing jobs for the women, Freeset instigates educational opportunities as well as healthcare and retirement plans for their current workforce of around 180.
Now that the Mad For Change team have returned, their plan is to increase support back home. Emphasis is being placed on gathering material and establishing awareness programs targeted towards younger generations of kiwis who “actually give a damn”.
By equipping youth with the resources to mobilise advocacy, Bradley believes that they are more than capable of initiating change.
“Young teenagers can actually make tomorrow a better day for somebody on the other side of the world if they put their mind to it,” Bradley says. “It’s not rocket science, it’s just giving it a crack.”
This article by Chelsea Emma originally appeared on her blog.