Fresh Start | Child Sponsorship

This month, our annual Fresh Start child sponsorship campaign begins. This year the global Dalit Freedom Network (operating in several countries and continents) has an audacious goal of seeing 5,000 children sponsored. IF we meet that goal, once the funds reach India, a donor will match dollar for dollar. That means 10,000 children could get sponsored! These children represent our 10,000 reasons campaign. Join us! 

 

Have you ever thought about what actually goes into making a child sponsorship program work in a developing nation?

 

Have you thought about what steps are involved in getting your letter across the world and into the hands of a child in rural India? What about that photo you were sent… have you ever wondered what it takes to get that photo sent to you?

Many who have sponsored children though an organization such as DFN, Compassion or World Vision have probably never thought through all of the necessary details and steps of what running a sponsorship program actually entails. I know I hadn’t until last month when a DFN team visited our child sponsorship (CS) office in India.

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Sagay, the CS director, led us to the room where the sponsorship magic happens. Well, it’s definitely not magic… it is a lot of very, very hard work. He introduced us to the CS team of 8, and walked us through each step involved in the program… from photographing each child, to collecting their personal details and school information, to matching them with a donor, to getting the donor’s letter(s) to the child, to collecting letters from the child for the donor, to wrapping up the year with a school/personal report etc. Whew! Just typing it out makes me want to take a nap. And that is just the tip of the iceberg, because brace yourself… this is all done by paper. PAPER.

 

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We saw mountains of papers representing each of the children. Many of the Good Shepherd schools are in rural areas or places without reliable internet access. So there is no e-mailing, scanning, filling out online forms and the like. Each page is filled in by hand. Usually by the teachers and school administrators who already have very full workloads.

 

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 CHILD SPONSORSHIP FAQ: 

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How does sponsorship help a child in India who is at a high risk for human trafficking?

With 40% of its 1.2 billion people under the age of 18, India has the highest population of children in the world, as well as the largest number of children in poverty. Their poverty puts them at risk for child labor, forced labor, or bonded labor and makes them especially vulnerable to being trafficked. Nearly 30% of the students at our Good Shepherd Schools have parents who are bonded laborers, a modern form of indentured servitude relatively unknown in the modern western world. In most poor villages in India education is not available, and consequently there is little hope of children ever rising above the economic hardship and the limitations of their parents. As a child sponsor, you make it possible for your child to receive an English language education and in doing so, you invest in the freedom and future of India’s most vulnerable children.

How does a child get into the sponsorship system?

Each Dalit child who enrolls in a Good Shepherd school gets put into the child sponsorship system.

What do  child sponsorship donations cover?

Your faithful donations cover tuition, uniforms, school supplies, midday meals (where necessary), textbooks, teacher salaries, and administrative costs for your child’s education. As a child sponsor, you help to provide a top-quality, English- medium, values-based education for India’s most at-risk children, and help to launch their courageous journeys toward dignity, equality, safety, and security. Not only does your sponsorship donation cover all of the education fees and costs, but it also strengthens an entire community. With education as its foundation, each Good Shepherd school becomes the central hub for all education, economic development, healthcare, and social justice initiatives in that specific community.

How long does it take to collect all the preliminary information for each child?

It can take anywhere from 3-4 months to collect the initial forms for each and every child (new children in the programs, as well as updates on current students). Teachers and school administration take the time to manually record each form for each child.

What other documents or information are collected over the year?

On any given year, the following documents are collected:

1. Intake form (for new students/sponsor children)

2. Healthcare form (information about the health status of each student as well as the family)

3. Education form (information about grades, subjects, extra curricular activities etc.)

4. End of year progress/evaluation. Each child usually writes one letter to their sponsor per year.

What does it look like to get a letter from a sponsor to their child? How long does that process usually take?

 

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Postal mail usually takes a few weeks to travel overseas and clear customs before it reaches our team in India. Since many schools are located in remote parts of India, in-country mail can take weeks to reach them. There are other factors which may at times be responsible for delays, such as heavy monsoon rains, civil unrest, or children being absent from school. Furthermore, when schools are not in session, our Indian partners will hold sponsors’ letters until the students return to class. Due to the extensive journey letters must make, a child may receive their letter a few months after it is sent. Similarly, when a child replies, his or her letter must make the long journey back to our office.

How many children does DFN USA currently collect data on for the sponsorship program?

We have a little over 6200 children in the DFN USA sponsorship program. (There are nearly 27,000  children enrolled in all, divided between DFN offices around the world. About 13,000 of them are sponsored between all the offices.)

How many of those children are currently sponsored?

We have just over 2200 of the 6200 still unsponsored in our DFN USA program.

What are the children in the Good Shepherd Schools being taught?

In each of our schools, children study a preparatory, government-approved, India-standardized curriculum, with English as the language of instruction. Without the ability to speak and write English, Dalit children will not be able to excel in Indian society. They also receive a values-based education that promotes the principles of freedom, equality, and human dignity for all. Every one of our schools provide education to children regardless of their class, creed, or faith.

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As you can see, child sponsorship is a time-intensive, but rewarding endeavor. And it is an essential foundation for reaching and changing the lives of Dalit children. I have a newfound appreciation for all those who work so hard behind the scenes to make child sponsorship a reality in the developing world.

10,000 Reasons

The global Dalit Freedom Network has been challenged to free 5,000 children in 2015. 5,000! Plus, if we do it, every dollar we raise will be matched by a donor once the funds reach India. This means 10,000 children will have the opportunity to get the education they need to change their future! Fresh Start is a significant opportunity for us to start strong.

Get Involved

#MakeItHappen – Text to donate today!

We are finishing out our focus on Dalit women’s empowerment and economic development this month with a TEXT TO DONATE push. Donating could not be easier. Please join us in helping free more  Dalit women through economic empowerment programs. Every dollar helps.

Every Dalit woman deserves a chance to be free, to work with dignity and to have the opportunity to support themselves and their families. 

Please share this post with friends and colleagues. If you haven’t connected with us on social media, please find and LIKE us here:

FACEBOOK – @DFN.USA

TWITTER – @dalitNETWORK

INSTAGRAM – @dalitnetworkusa

 

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Spices for Freedom | Asha’s Story

Meet Asha* (name changed for privacy purposes).

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Asha was dedicated as a young girl to the goddess Yellamma to become a temple prostitute, a Jogini. This is an illegal practice that is still taking place in many parts of India today. Girls around the age of puberty (and sometimes much younger) are taken to the temple and given in “marriage” to the goddess of fertility. This girl, now called a Jogini, will be used sexually and abused by the temple priest at his will, as well as sold to wealthy men in the community for sexual purposes. Many Dalit families, especially in rural areas, give their daughters to this despicable practice out of ignorance and desperation. Often these families do not have the resources to provide a dowry to marry off their daughters to men in their communities. So they dedicate them to the temple, being told they will receive some money (at times) and or “favor” from the goddess.

Joginis live a harsh, destitute life, often exposed to sexually transmitted diseases and abused regularly. When a Jogini reaches an age where she is no longer as physically attractive, she is left with no skills, no other options for survival. Suicide rates for Joginis are quite high.

Asha had reached this phase of her life…. no longer being desired for her body because of her age and with little to no hope for her future. She was beginning to have suicidal plans and thoughts.

About this time, she met someone from one of our LAMP programs in her community. This group reached out to her, extending kindness and the possibility of a grant to start a business of her own – grinding and selling spices. She was skeptical, but eventually the desire for normal life propelled her to accept the grant and she purchased a spice pounding machine.

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She cried tears of joy when the first packets of spices sold and she realized she could make an honest and dignified living for herself and two daughters (she has no idea who the fathers are). She now works with a community of women and has a respectable job that supports her family. She has experienced the love of Christ in her life through this community and her life has truly turned around for the better. In a couple of years, her daughters will be old enough to attend a local Good Shephard School and will never have to worry about living the kind of life their mother was forced into.

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This is the beauty of extending a loving and empowering hand to women like Asha. Real life change happens. Real opportunity is on the line. These women simply need someone to believe in them, and offer a way out of their bleak existence as Dalit women, and Joginis.

You can read more about our Jogini/Devadasi programs here.

Join us this month, as we strive to extend a hand to Dalit women and help #makeithappen for them.

Did you know it costs only $100 to free a woman from a life-cycle of abject poverty? With an investment of $100, a woman can receive the means and training to start her own business… whether that is selling buffalo milk, a fruit and veggie cart, grinding and selling chili powder, tailoring and sewing projects. It is such a minimal investment with an immeasurable return.

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LAMP Programs #makeithappen for women!

One of the best ways Dalit Freedom Network and our partner in India, Good Shepherd Economic Development (GSED), addresses women’s issues is through  economic development initiatives, called LAMP programs. LAMP stands for Livelihood Augmentation Management Program. Here is a simple breakdown of the various ways LAMP programs empower women and communities.

What is a LAMP Group? 

LAMP Groups (community-based groups) are Self-Help Groups of 10-15 women coming from underprivileged social and economic backgrounds.  Members of the LAMP Groups voluntarily come together and make small, regular contributions to a common fund.  Once there is enough capital, funds are then lent back to the members to help them start small businesses or, in some cases, to meet their emergency needs.

The intended larger benefit of LAMP Groups is that its members should learn values such as stewardship and prudent living along with gaining business skills for the ultimate uplifting of families and eventually, entire local communities.

Further, GSED appoints a LAMP Officer to provide assistance and training to LAMP Group members to avail Government programs and benefits. GSED started 1722 groups with 21612 members in the past 5 years.

LAMP Groups to date:

  • No. of LAMP Groups :   1,722
  • No. of total Members in LAMP Groups :  21,612
  • No. of locations in the country :         41
  • No. of LAMP Officers :         17

 

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What is a LAMP Grant? 

GSED provides grants to the needy of the targeted community for starting small self-employment ventures like cottage dairy, cottage poultry, petty business, etc.  After a certain period of time, the owners of such ventures are free to give a free will donation back to LAMP Grant which enables us to give grants to more people in the community.

Most women, who make up the majority in impoverished local communities,  are often either unskilled or semi-skilled. LAMP Grants will specifically address their needs and problems and assist such women in their empowerment.

Total Number of LAMP Grants to date:  8,600

Schemes/Programs for LAMP Grants

  • Cottage dairies : Buffaloes & Cows
  • Sewing/Tailoring : Tailoring and Embroidery
  • Petty Shop : Groceries & Common Domestic Commodities
  • Spices: Spice Pounding & Packing
  • Auto Rickshaws : Three-Wheeler Cabs
  • Bamboo Basket Making : Making and Marketing of Bamboo Baskets
  • Veg & Fruit Vending : Hawking on Pushcarts & Stationary Vending
  • Petty Mechanics : Automobile Repair Shops
  • Goat Farming : Cottage Goat Farming
  • Music instruments : Instruments for Local Music Bands
  • Piggery : Cottage Piggery
  • Agriculture : Kitchen Gardening
  • Snack Bars : Coffee/Tea, Snacks & Confectioneries
  • Barber Shop :  Single and Double Seat Barber Shops
  • Welding Shop :  Metal Fabrication Units
  • Poultry :  Cottage Poultry for Chicken and Eggs

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What is Community Based Vocational Training? 

GSED provides Community Based Vocational Training (CBVT) which includes foundational, entrepreneurial and technical/vocational skills in areas as mentioned below.  We have trained 5728 women in different skills training from 2008 to 2014. Right now we have 17 CBVTs with 340 students in this batch. 

  • Cottage dairies : Buffaloes & Cows
  • Sewing/Tailoring : Tailoring and Embroidery
  • Piggery : Cottage Piggery
  • Welding Shop :  Metal Fabrication Units

 

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Women’s Success Stories: 

Tailoring Centers:

Women of a community in South India, had a desire to learn sewing skills but had no opportunity to do so because of their repressed role in their communities.  But since GSED set up its tailoring center there, scores of women have not only successfully learned this trade but also are now employed or self-employed.  These women have gained a high level of self-respect in their society.  This was possible all because of their proven track record as responsible members of their families, thereby enabling them to create a productive work force in the larger society itself.  Such women now have a voice to claim their well-deserved rights and slowly but steadily eradicate the wide prevalence of gender bias from their local society. 

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Devadasie: 

Early this year a tailoring center was launched in Karnataka to teach tailoring skills (a six-month course) for about 40 women from challenged, high-risk (for temple prostitution and trafficking) backgrounds.  Some of the women enrolled are second generation Devadasis (temple prostitutes)This endeavor will go a long way toward redeeming these young and beautiful lives out of a vicious lifestyle.  At the end of six months, these women will be able to support themselves with an economic skill and earn their own living with respect and dignity.  We believe that respect and dignity is the birthright of every human being.

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Buffalos:

Ms. Ramadevi (age 30) is a member of one of our LAMP groups. She is married with three children.  She comes from a Dalit community.  Her husband is an unskilled laborer and an alchololic.  He rarely goes to work and spends most of his income drinking.

Ramadevi started taking loans from money lenders at high interest rates to meet her family’s needs.  She was unable to pay the these loans in time and the money lenders started threatening her to pay the accumulated interest and principal amounts. Being in dire straits, she approached GSED and asked for help to find a job.  Instead, we offered to provide a grant to buy a buffalo.   She now earns around 200 Rupees a day from selling the buffalo’s milk which enabled her to pay off most of the heavy debts with enough money to provide for her family.  Above all, she is able to live with dignity.

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As you can see, economic development is a powerful tool in the transforming of entire communities. And women are often the catalysts for these programs. This month, please consider investing in their empowerment and help them #makeithappen for their families and communities! 

 

Did you know it costs only $100 to free a woman from a life-cycle of abject poverty? With an investment of $100, a woman can receive the means and training to start her own business… whether that is selling buffalo milk, a fruit and veggie cart, grinding and selling chili powder, tailoring and sewing projects. It is such a minimal investment with an immeasurable return.

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Community Transformation – Women #makeithappen

This month, we celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8. But really, for us at DFN, it is a whole month of celebrating the courage, tenacity, ingenuity and worth of Dalit women.

Last month, our team visited with the director of the LAMP (life augmentation management program) programs and Self-Help groups in India. One story he shared illustrated what it looks like to empower a Dalit woman. It has been said by many that when you empower/educate/lift up a woman, you empower an entire community. The following story is a simple reminder of what an empowered community looks like.

LAMP Women #makeithappen

Good Shephard Economic Development began in a particular area* in India in 2008. Since then, they have established 140 LAMP groups affecting 1700 women in the area. Last October, a group of women became aware that children at one of their local schools (not a Good Shephard school) were not being given their midday meal (which includes a hardboiled egg for nutrition). Instead, the staff of the school, led by the principal were eating the meal themselves and cheating the children.

The LAMP women from the school’s village organized a Dharna (a non-violent, sit-in protest usually undertaken at the door of the offender) to protest this injustice. They contacted the local authorities and then even locked the school gates so the staff and administration could not leave before the authorities arrived to investigate.

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The result is that the principal of the school was let go and the children began receiving their midday meal again, as promised. In other words, these are women who have been empowered to #makeithappen.

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This may seem like a small issue. But it is not. Everything from investigating the injustice to organizing themselves and demanding justice, peacefully, to seeing a resolution through was done by the women themselves.

This is what community transformation looks like when women know they have a right to speak up on behalf of themselves, their children, and their community. LAMP groups truly are a “light” in their communities.

* For security reasons, we are not sharing specific village names or areas for any of our schools/programs online at this time. 

Please consider joining us this month as we seek to free 100 women and thus empower countless communities around them.

Did you know it costs only $100 to free a woman from a life-cycle of abject poverty? With an investment of $100, a woman can receive the means and training to start her own business… whether that is selling buffalo milk, a fruit and veggie cart, grinding and selling chili powder, tailoring and sewing projects. It is such a minimal investment with an immeasurable return.

Give Now

International Women’s Day 2015 – #makeithappen

International Women’s Day 2015 is March 8

Theme: MAKE IT HAPPEN

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All around the world, International Women’s Day represents an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater equality. (source)

It has been said that Dalit women are “thrice dalit.” They endure gender-based violence and discrimination, economic oppression through extreme poverty, and caste-based discrimination based on Dalit status. One of the basic principles of DFN’s work, as we covered in our recent #Dalit101 series, is economic empowerment, specifically women’s economic empowerment.

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Last month, a team from DFN visited several of our India schools and offices. We sat down with the director of our Self-Help and LAMP (Livelihood Augmentation Management Program) programs for nearly an hour listening to story after story of women being given new hope and changed futures by the simple, minor investment of seed money or a sewing machine and training. Most of these women know they have the potential for so much more and only need someone to:

a.) believe them, and;

b.) invest in them to get things going.

In short, they need someone to help #makeithappen for them as they continue to make things happen for their families and communities.

We also learned about past and present International Women’s Day celebrations happening all over India. These celebrations are planned to help educate, empower and generally celebrate Dalit women. This year, our amazing Indian partners have planned gatherings in strategic areas so the maximum number of women can attend.

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(photos from IWD gatherings in 2014)

International Women’s Day, for us,  is a day to say “Dalit women matter.” That they are of value and purpose… not for what they do or can provide others, but simply by being born. Our director of LAMP beamed as he told us the stories of seeing these women gather together, sharing their pain as well as standing together in hope for a better future for themselves and their children.

This month, in honor of International Women’s Day, there will be 8 event locations over 6 different days with an expected 3800 – 4000 women attending. This is extraordinary. We wish we could attend each and every gathering to encourage, support and elevate these women. And we commend our amazing Indian partners for creating the time, space and resources to celebrate Dalit women.

As Dr. Ambedkar has said,

I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved.

Join us this month as we celebrate and support Dalit women. Help us #makeithappen for Dalit women.

Did you know it costs only $100 to free a woman from a life-cycle of abject poverty? With an investment of $100, a woman can receive the means and training to start her own business… whether that is selling buffalo milk, a fruit and veggie cart, grinding and selling chili powder, tailoring and sewing projects. It is such a minimal investment with an immeasurable return.

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Dalit 101 – What can we do?

We have discussed who the Dalits arehow their lives can be difficult, and why they still face hardship, despite laws designed to protect them.

We will now turn our attention to what can be done. And there is good news! We at DFN, with the help with our generous and faithful supporters and our Indian partners, offer hope and opportunity to thousands of Dalit people

 

What Can We Do?

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Although the Dalit plight can feel daunting, we at DFN look through a lens of hope, possibility, opportunity, and ultimately freedom from the Dalits’ vulnerability to poverty, oppression, and modern slavery. It’s what drives us personally, and it’s what drives our work on behalf of Dalit communities. We believe every person is valuable, every person has the right to safety, health, and dignity, and that every person should have opportunity.

The Dalit Freedom Network began in 2002 in response to the cries of Dalits for help in their quest for freedom from the lingering effects of caste. Out of that pivotal moment came our mission:  to end atrocities and help the Dalit people achieve fundamental rights through a foundation of education, healthcare, and economic empowerment.

Through the implementation of our holistic community transformation model, we have a goal of transforming 1,000 villages in India over the next decade. And it all begins with education.

 


Education

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The first step to village transformation is the education of its children. Since the majority of Dalit adults are illiterate and unable to provide a quality education for their children, few Dalit children have a hope for a better life. DFN is standing with them by offering hope and opportunity through the cornerstone of our community transformation model: education.

In each of our 107 Good Shepherd Schools, nearly 26,000 students learn English and are taught the values of freedom, equality, and human dignity for all. GSS students are becoming a generation of thinkers and change agents who will carry forward the principles of liberty and justice. The instruction provided in our schools adheres to the most stringent India standards, and many of our students earn top-tier scores on nationalized tests. 

There are more children in India than any other country in the world. Every day, many of them live in real danger of being trafficked, maimed, or sold into slavery. Nearly 30% of students receiving an English-medium education at our Good Shepherd Schools have parents who are bonded laborers. When you fund the education of a child, you make an investment in their freedom and their future. Without your help, most cannot stay in school or escape the poverty that puts them at risk for commercial sexual exploitation, forced labor, or bonded labor.

Children receive financial assistance to attend a GSS through our education fund, either through traditional child sponsorship (sponsorship FAQs here) or through funding scholarships. No matter how you get involved, you provide curriculum and supplies, books, uniforms, and a midday meal (where necessary) in a caring environment.

A word about our 2015 graduates:

440 Dalit students graduated from a Good Shepherd School this year. We at DFN are so proud of each of these young people! As they head out into the world, whether it is to work or continued education, they are poised to create transformational change in their communities. Most are headed to junior college for two years and then to formal university to become doctors, nurses, teachers, programers, engineers, or wherever their desire and hard work takes them.

 Interested in seeing more ways you can stand with the Dalit people through education? See our opportunities here.

 


Healthcare

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Many Dalit people cannot afford visits to a doctor or a hospital and suffer—sometimes even die—from diseases that are curable. DFN and its partners in India provide basic public healthcare in villages and administer vaccines to children in our schools. As Dalits gain access to hygiene training and healthcare for the first time, they are empowered to live healthier, more dignified lives.

We do this through our Four-Tier Healthcare Delivery System:

Tier I is the Community Health Workers (CHW) Initiative. Dr. Paul Farmer, a medical doctor and professor of medical anthropology at Harvard University was asked in 2007, “Which single intervention would do the most to improve the health of those living on less than $1 a day?” Dr. Farmer’s reply: “Hire community health workers to serve them.” DFN is on the leading edge of this movement. Presently, there are 60 CHWs trained, placed, and operating out of our Good Shepherd Schools.

Tier II is the Regional Clinic Program. Our regional clinics provide quality preventive, curative, and diagnostic healthcare to Dalit communities. We encourage local community participation, both medical and non medical, in the planning and operating of our regional clinics.

Tier III is the Mobile Clinic Program. The Mobile Clinics aim to provide healthcare services and programs to under-served communities in both rural and urban settings. Health education and awareness programs, diagnosis and treatment, referral services, and data collection are some of the services offered.

Tier IV consists of a Nurses Training College and a Dalit Hospital Project in Hyderabad. Now in its final stage of completion, the hospital will provide the following facilities: cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery, gastroenterology, neurology, neurosurgery, nephrology, urology, accident, trauma, and emergency care, and lab services, as well as the Nurses Training College and the Community Health College.

 Interested in seeing more ways you can stand with the Dalit people through healthcare? See our opportunities here.

 


Economic Empowerment

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DFN believes economic development is one of the best ways to invest in Dalit lives. Increasing economic opportunities helps Dalits stand independently, support their family, fund education for their children, and find hope for the future.

Our economic development strategy has three main efforts: financial assistance to qualified individuals to enable them to begin small businesses, vocational training in marketable skills, and self-help groups. These initiatives are monitored by a national board of directors for financial accountability.

1. Financial Assistance: Our initiatives offer help to budding entrepreneurs so they can start a small business.

2. Vocational training: Provided for older teenagers and adults—men or women—who want to learn income-generating skills. These training classes include such trades as beauty/barbering skills, spice-making, tailoring, driving, carpentry, cycle repair, ironing, and electrical work. 

3. Self-Help Groups: Participants learn organizational skills and business best practices. Locally trained officers teach financial accounting principles and offer support in a spirit of community, trust, and personal care. Currently, the majority of groups are organized and run by Dalit women. Most could not have dreamed of this kind of opportunity previously! 

Interested in seeing more ways you can stand with the Dalit people through economic empowerment?  See our opportunities here.
Do you have a particular interest in the needs of girls and women? See those opportunities here

DFN cannot stand with the Dalits in their quest for freedom, equality and opportunity without you! Thanks for being a DFN partner!


Other posts in this series:

Who are the Dalits?

How do the Dalits face hardship? 

Why do the Dalits face hardship? 

Dalit 101 – Why do Dalits face hardship?

Even in our modern world, Dalits are a people who experience much hardship: socially, economically, and politically. They often face nearly unimaginable obstacles. In this series, Dalit 101, our previous entries explored who the Dalits are and how they face hardship. Now we will turn to why the Dalits still face difficulties in their daily lives.

*Please note, unless otherwise noted, the majority of this information is taken from Joseph D’Souza’s book, Dalit Freedom Now and Forever.* Joseph D’Souza is the international president of the Dalit Freedom Network. 

 

Why Do Dalits Face Hardship?

To understand the lingering effects of the caste system and how it affects Dalits and other indigenous people, you have to understand a bit of history.

The “laws of caste” were initially outlined in an ancient text, Manusmriti, a book of codes written by a Hindu scribe, Manu (meaning the Law Giver). Over time, caste pervaded Indian society.

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In the 20th century, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, a social reformer who is considered the “Father of the Indian Constitution,” worked to end untouchability for Dalits, including a revolutionary provision of the Indian Constitution, Article 17:

Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of untouchability shall be an offense punishable in accordance with the law.

In other words, untouchability became illegal and punishable as a criminal offense.  However, the penalties for caste-based discrimination are rarely handed down. Why? Because some in law enforcement and the justice system are subject to caste bias themselves! Cultural caste discrimination is a cycle that is difficult to break. Consider this statement from the US State Department International Religious Freedom Report of 2006

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 lists offenses against disadvantaged persons and provides for stiff penalties for offenders; however, this act has only had modest effect in curbing abuse due to victims’ fears of retaliation if they accused high-caste members of committing atrocities.

Even though untouchability is illegal, many Dalits today remain trapped in a perpetual cycle of poverty, with a lack of education and little opportunity to improve their lives.

 


And that’s why DFN exists. To alter stories of despair to stories of hope. To come alongside India’s people to help make India great.

Other posts in this series:

Who are the Dalits? 

How are Dalits oppressed? 

What can we do about it?