Peter Mihaere was invited to co-lead a team of New Zealanders to India and Bangladesh to observe the work of a bunch of kiwis. On the 31st December 2004 the group arrived at the door of a freedom business called Freeset in Kolkata, India.
It was here that Peter was introduced, faced to face, to the red light districts of India where women and children were trafficked in brothels on a daily basis from as far north as Nepal, North East India, Bangladesh and from the surrounding districts of West Bengal.
At the time there were estimated to be some ten thousand women in the brothels of Sonagachi, servicing twenty thousand men on a daily basis. Freedom businesses like Freeset offered women an opportunity to leave the sex trade and learn to sew bags and garments instead of selling their bodies.
In November 2005 Peter Mihaere became the Managing Director of Marketplacers International Limited, a business with enterprises across Asia including two businesses, Freeset and Love Calcutta Arts, based in Kolkata offering freedom to women trapped in the sex trade or who were vulnerable to being sold into brothels.
A third business, The Loyal Workshop, was established during Peter’s tenure in another brothel in Kolkata. Freeset also expanded into multiple business units in Kolkata and Murshidibad.
Peter is still a Director of Marketplacers International Limited and Freeset International Limited.
While on a ‘Green Light’ business expansion tour for Freeset in the rural district of Murshidabad, 200kms north of the city of Kolkata, West Bengal, India, Peter Mihaere met a young girl and her grandfather. This young girl had a half sister who had been trafficked by the grandfather many years before. She meet some women from Freeset and was offered freedom.
While in Murshidabad Peter has an epiphany and described hearing an audible voice say to him “Peter, buy this field so Nayan and her friends never have to be sold…”
Peter returned to New Zealand sensing that something significant needed to be done and discussed this in depth with his Senior Management team and Governance Board.
During the first six months of 2013 Peter took a sabbatical to study in depth the issue of slavery and human trafficking around the world and what needed to be done.
He observed three things:
In presenting his findings to his governing board Peter developed a proposal for a response, the establishment of an organisation whose primary purpose was to contribute toward the networking, connecting and collaborating with individuals, NGO’s, organisations, and government agencies both locally in NZ and around the world to hopefully develop the accessibility and sophistication the anti-slavery movements desperately needs.
During the second half of 2013 Peter developed and had approved a proposal for a joint venture to establish Stand Against Slavery (SAS). SAS was birthed as a Baptist justice initiative for the Baptist Churches of NZ. Whilst it began as a natural response from the Christian church, its reach is across society and at any and every level.
SAS began operations in October 2013 with the employment of Nicola Winthrop who began the important task of developing as many net works as possible. These networks were predominantly other NGO, individuals, schools, enforcement agencies and NZ politicians.
SAS was officially launched in November 2013 in Manukau City, Auckland, at the annual gathering of the NZ Baptist Churches.
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