On 15 June 2017 Round Table Singapore and Ladies Circle Singapore – in formation co-organised a presentation by Arjan Erkel and Evelien Hölsken, the founders of the Free a Girl Movement. Arjan started off the evening by sharing his experiences of being kidnapped for 20 months, which was deeply touching and eye-opening. His passion for life is clearly visible when he tells his story. Evelien shared her impactful views on child prostitution in Asia with the group. This too, was a startling account of what happens behind closed doors.
About Free a Girl movement
Free a Girl is an international movement (founded in The Netherlands) dedicated to freeing young girls from forced prostitution, provide them with shelter and prosecute offenders. In the past 9 years, they have contributed to the liberation of thousands of girls from brothels as well as supported their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
In Asia – where they primarily work – it is estimated that there are more than one million children in forced prostitution under the age of 18, mainly girls. Their strategy is to support grassroots rescue teams to liberate these girls from brothels. After liberation, they provide medical and psychosocial care, and organise education and vocational training. They also support preventative and awareness-raising activities in high-risk areas and ensure access to legal aid for child victims.
Free a Girl works in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, Brazil and the Netherlands (where they are based). With their fourteen local partners and clusters of projects, they are able to ensure an integrated chain of services for these young victims.
What is the ambition of Free a Girl?
The ambition of the Free a Girl movement is to get support for their work and approach not only from western countries but also from the programme countries and within the South-East Asia region.
In India, they recently opened an office in Mumbai to start local awareness activities and fundraising. They believe that a long-lasting change has to come from within the programme countries and the region itself and not only from western countries. They are in the process of mobilising the corporate and private sector in Hong Kong and Singapore to achieve a long-lasting change for the girls in Asia to end child prostitution.
What have the biggest achievement been?
They have liberated more than 4,000 girls from prostitution in Asia. But they are also proud of their innovate approaches in fundraising and programme interventions.
School for Justice
The School for Justice is both an educational program and an awareness raising campaign. Former victims of child prostitution are educated to become lawyers and public offenders to fight the impunity in their own country. These girls are also the ambassadors of the awareness campaign. In June 2017, the advertising agency JWT and Free a Girl received a Golden Lion for the campaign.
What are the next steps in the region?
Free a Girl aims to mobilise the private and corporate sector in Singapore and Hong Kong since they have a link with Asia and The Netherlands. There are many projects that need funding which can be a nice opportunity for companies to really boost their CSR. Free a Girl is open for sponsors and volunteers to set-up fundraising events for the Dutch community in Singapore in 2018.