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How Free a Girl gives freedom to those who need it most: children

August 12, 2020

This post is part of a series of interviews with these charities, to give you insights and let them tell you their own story.

Free a Girl fights the sexual exploitation of children by rescuing them out of such situations and raising awareness among communities. We reached out to them and were lucky enough to get an interview from Anne Vis, their Marketing and Communications Manager. Let’s hear her out!

How did the story of Free a Girl begin? Is there anyone or anything that inspired you?

Our director and founder Evelien Hölsken studied Commerce & Economics and had all kinds of jobs in the commercial sector. But the good salary, nice car and only thinking about reaching targets didn’t make her happy. She quit her job and started to work for Plan Nederland. She enjoyed the various projects, but the bureaucracy of such a large organization was overwhelming. She wanted to get things done, something concrete. That’s why she founded Free a Girl in 2008 with Arjan Erkel, Yolanthe Cabau and Roelof van Laar.

Is there a specific project that you’re most proud of so far, or a story that stood out to you?

We’re most proud of our School for Justice project in India. Girls we rescued from sexual exploitation are now studying law at the university so that they can tackle impunity in their own country. Many perpetrators roam freely because they are not prosecuted. As a result, survivors never really feel redeemed. With our School for Justice, we give them a chance to fight back.

Some people are worried about where their money is actually going when donating to charities. How do you respond to them?

We try to explain as much as we can about how we use donations to rescue girls. It helps a lot to give them some kind of “overview” about the average costs of our activities:

  • With €50,- we can rescue a girl
  • With €250,- we can fund secondary school costs for one child (books, uniform, tuition) for a year
  • With €500,- we can fund professional training as a catering employee, beautician, or police officer.
  • With €1000,- we can offer children trauma counselling and aftercare. Many of them have STIs and some have become infected with HIV. With this amount, we can take care of a child after a rescue, offer education and help them both medically and psychologically with trauma counselling.
  • With €2500,- we can have a perpetrator convicted under criminal law by giving legal assistance and counselling sessions to a girl who wants to get her perpetrator behind bars.

Besides, we are a professional organization that is recognized by the Netherlands Fundraising Regulator (CBF). This means that you can trust Free a Girl as an organization and that we are closely reviewed and audited on a yearly basis and find our annual reports with an overview of all costs on our website.

What do you do to grow and move forward every day?

We have rescued over 4,600 girls to date but we strive for a world free of child prostitution. This requires international cooperation and we want to get governments of countries where sexual exploitation of children occurs to be held accountable to the UN and pressure them to address the issue.

What’s next for Free a Girl?

The current crisis has a huge impact on the exploitation of children. In most of the countries where we operate, much more stringent lockdown measures are still in place that prevent our teams from doing undercover operations and rescuing girls. We also hear that brothel owners still hold girls and let customers in through the back door. Our teams are now trying to collect information online so that we can start immediately after the lockdown. We try to reach the most vulnerable children with emergency aid, because the girls in brothels and children of sex workers literally die of hunger.

Besides, we slowly started our fundraising campaigns in the Netherlands as well with a greater focus on individual fundraising and private sector partnerships. We are now preparing our new School for Justice campaign for upcoming October, so stay tuned!

Do you have a message for encouraging people to give back to others?

We are the lucky ones that belong to the 2 percent of humanity that live in a prosperous country with the freedom to make full use of our opportunities and potential. By giving back, you give girls the possibility to be free again and to unlock their potential.

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