Hardship and Hope

The day was hot and sticky.

The pungent aromas of cooking, diesel fumes, people, debris, and animal waste drifted in through the open windows of our Jeep and were magnified by the heat as we made our way through the village in central India. Bone jarring bumps to my backside were accompanied by the sound of car horns, calls to worship at the nearby temple, street vendors hawking everything from trinkets to vegetables, children playing in the street, and the clanging of dishes at a tea stand by the side of the road. The road was in desperate need of repair.

Something caught my eye out the front window as I bounced around in the back seat. I looked again to make sure what I thought I was seeing was actually happening. It was.

Men with large sledgehammers were breaking up the concrete road road right in front of the car. By hand. One piece at a time. Women were positioned alongside the men. They carried containers which they filled with large chunks of the broken concrete, then hoisted the load on top of their heads and carried it away. Sweat streamed down their faces and bodies with the exertion. I wondered, “Who are they? Why this hardship? I can’t imagine they chose this life.”

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Woman taking a break from hard labor in Maharashtra State, India.

 

They were probably Dalit.

It is a fact that over 80% of bonded laborers are either from communities designated as “untouchable” or from indigenous tribal groups, according to Anti Slavery International, the world’s oldest anti-slavery organization.

It is also a fact that Dalit women are at the very highest risk for trafficking into slave labour and prostitution. They are often used as indentured servants in brick kilns, garment factories, and agriculture. And who does the most demeaning task of all, removing human waste by hand (manual scavenging)? 98% are Dalit women or children.

“The reality of Dalit women and girls is one of exclusion and marginalization … They are often victims of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights violations, including sexual abuse and violence. They are often displaced; pushed into forced and/or bonded labour, prostitution and trafficking,” said United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Rashida Manjoo, in 2013.

Being a Dalit woman is hard.

“The combination of caste and gender makes millions of Dalit women extremely vulnerable to discrimination and violence, including rape.” Human Rights Watch

But there is hope.

Dalit women are rising up, recognizing they can have value: to themselves, to their families, to society. In vocational training centers all over India, women are being freed from slavery and prostitution and are learning a trade that will generate enough income to support their families. It’s not just about income though. It’s about dignity. Value. Worth.

 

 

This month, as we commemorate Human Trafficking Awareness month, you can free a Dalit woman.

At one of the centers Dalit Freedom Network supports, she will have options instead of being forced or coerced. Will she become a tailor? A beautician? Will she learn to make jewelry? Will she learn computer skills? Will she learn conversational English? For perhaps the first time, she will have a choice. With choices come hope. Dignity. Satisfaction. Pride.

 You can give her that choice today. We hope you will.

 

Please consider one of the following options:

1. Give $100, which provides the complete training she needs to graduate so she can open her own small business.
Please write “women’s training” in the comments field when you give.

2. Give $55, which provides all the tools to accompany her sewing machine.
Please write “sewing tools” in the comments field when you give.

3. Give $30, which provides the tools for a woman to begin her own cosmetology business after training.
Please write “cosmetology tools” in the comments field when you give.

4. Purchase any of the fair trade products from our store.
A portion of the proceeds goes to our women’s centers.

5. Or, give any amount.
Please write “women” in the comments field with you give. 

 

 

2015 Was A Good Year!

Here at the start of 2016, we want to thank you for an incredible 2015.

Because of you, countless lives have been impacted all over India!

  • Children have been rescued from the hands of traffickers and child labor bosses and are now receiving an education in a safe and caring environment that teaches the value and dignity of every person.
  • Women have been rescued from prostitution and abuse and are learning skills that will enable them to provide a living wage for their families.
  • Entire families have been rescued from extreme poverty and bonded labor and now own businesses with steady income.
  • Communities are being transformed by Good Shepherd graduates who return to their villages or slums to serve as teachers, healthcare workers, and business owners.

None of this would be possible without you. Thank you for standing with the Dalit people, and thank you for your support of DFN.

We hope you enjoy these words of thanks and encouragement directly from India and from Matthew Cork, DFN USA’s executive director.

2016 promises to be an amazing year, and we hope you’ll join us on the journey!