Learning To Tailor and Make Her Own Way | Pawani’s Story

Pawani, age 21, grew up in a marginalized Hindu community with her parents.

Like many in her community, her parents struggled to make ends meet and put food on the table. Pawani attended school but could barely complete primary level education because of the family’s desperate economic condition. Prospects for additional income were grim looking.

Bride To Be

So her parents did what they thought was best in this type of situation — they decided to find a husband for Pawani even though she was still in her teens. Her new husband, although he was an artisan by trade, barely made enough money to sustain a household.

Pawani soon discovered another challenge in her new home as a young wife — her in-laws. One aspect of traditional Indian culture is that a woman may be treated as “property” to her in-laws, even though she brings a dowry with her. This makes life difficult for many young brides.

Losing Hope

Day by day, life was becoming intolerable for Pawani. Her mother- and father-in-law kept pressuring her to bring in more money to the household, even if it meant obtaining the money from her own parents.

She couldn’t bring herself to ask for more money from her parents, who were barely surviving on their own. They had already gotten into enough debt by paying her pricey dowry.

An Empowered Life

Pawani then met one of our staff members who encouraged her to join a vocational training center. At this center, she would have the opportunity to learn the tailoring trade and generate her own income.

Pawani’s dedication and commitment quickly helped her obtain this new skill. She became empowered as she learned the highly marketable tailoring trade.

Now her hard-working and talented hands have crafted numerous crafts and uniforms used in DFN schools. Her well-earned income goes a long way at home and has helped her assert her legitimacy and place in her household among her in-laws.

When you give to DFN, you are helping to empower many young women like Pawani. Thank you for making her story possible!

Fighting the Hidden Dangers of Poverty

In many countries around the world, practicing healthy sanitation is often taken for granted. Millions of people, particularly those in developed countries, have at-home access to bathrooms.

The thought of danger or fear while heading to a bathroom never crosses our minds.

Sadly, this is not the case for many living in poverty-stricken communities, specifically women.

There is a hidden danger of sexual violence that is quite prevalent for impoverished girls and women who lack access to basic sanitation facilities. They often have no choice but to defecate in the open, making them vulnerable to stalkers and an ensuing assault.

This became the tragic reality for 13-year-old Smitha.

Usually Smitha would go to public toilets in the company of her friends to ward off any stalkers, but on one fateful day she had no choice but to go to one alone. She was quickly approached, trapped and raped by a 27-year-old man from her village. He threatened her with dire consequences if she reported his attack.

Smitha was traumatized. She could not hide this trauma from her parents and told them what happened. Her parents immediately contacted the police to report the incident and reached out to a local pastor. Thankfully, we were able to help Smitha get access to legal assistance and a court hearing was scheduled.

Although, justice was being fought for Smitha’s terrible incident, she was not able to escape the effects of this trauma.

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Despite being a high-performing student, Smitha stopped going to school. She feared ridicule from her peers and neighbors. She began spending most of her time indoors with her parents, often struggling to maintain a calm demeanor. Remembering the horrible incident, she was always on the cusp of tears. Her parents did what they could to help her and protect with what little means they had.

Fortunately, we found out about Smitha’s story and reached out to the family. Her mother, shedding tears of deep sorrow, verbalized the harrowing incident on that fateful day. She even took our staff members to the site where the rape occurred. Tragically, this public toilet is still used in the early morning hours and in the evenings, making more young girls vulnerable to attack.

After hearing Smitha’s story, we invited Smitha for counseling at one of our centers aimed at helping those who have suffered sexual violence, assault and human trafficking. The family gladly agreed. Now, staff is visiting Smitha and her family regularly to provide love, compassion and support until the court case is resolved. Although Smitha still suffers, she is now looking toward her future with optimism.

When friends like you support DFN, you’re helping to give love and special care to girls like Smitha.

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Changing A Destiny From Misery to Hope

“This is your destiny.”

The first time 14-year-old Yellama heard these words, she was in tears and traumatized as she had just been sexually assaulted the night before by a stranger. She felt violated, shocked and hurt.

Her mother’s words only worsened the situation.

Yellama, unfortunately like many other girls in India, was dedicated as a jogini (temple prostitute) at a very young age. A few days before her first assault, she had a normal childhood. She enjoyed going to school, spending time with her peers, and she was strong, healthy and intelligent.

All that changed when her sister returned home after becoming widow. The financial strain of supporting another child was too much for her family. The village priest recommended that Yellama be dedicated as a jogini to help bring in income.

Yellama was quickly ‘married to the goddess’ during a dedication ceremony and stopped going to school.

A life of misery

For the next several years, Yellama lived in despair and misery. She felt betrayed by her family and especially by her mother, who told her, “This is what you were born for — to be a jogini and serve the goddess.”

During the day Yellama worked as a day laborer and by night she was used by the men of her village.

She watched as her friends continued their schooling.

At one point, Yellama thought there was a way out of this life. She became pregnant and believed the father of the baby loved her and would take her as his wife. Sadly he, like all the men, abandoned Yellama and even avoided her in the street after she had his child. She was stung by shame as the villagers ridiculed her “half-breed” son.

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Finding dignity and respect

Fortunately for Yellama, hope was on the horizon. She met some newcomers in her village who treated her with dignity and respect. She had never experienced this in her life before. These individuals truly cared for her and helped her turn her life around. She was finally able to leave her old life behind.

But what she took with her was the determination to not let other innocent girls suffer the same fate as her.

Yellama now wants to see an end to the jogini practice and wants the thousands of others who are trapped in this ritual sex slavery be freed.

We are so proud of how far Yellama has come in her life as she now works in our prevention program, raising awareness and stopping more girls being dedicated as joginis.

Yellama is a true inspiration!

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