Fighting To End the Jogini System

“Freedom cannot be achieved unless the women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression.” -Nelson Mandela

The vision and power of these words are what we truly believe in and aspire to in our work with vulnerable women in India.

Especially women involved in the jogini practice (ritual form of sex slavery).

With your help, we have a mission of seeing this centuries-old system being completely abolished by 2026. We aim to cut off the drivers of this practice, as well as empower existing joginis and give them alternative livelihoods.

How are we working towards this goal?

Our staff actively implements awareness and prevention work, hosts monthly medical camps, educates women on their rights, provides grants to help women start businesses, offers skills training, teaches English to vulnerable children, and provides shelter to vulnerable girls.

We also work side by side with village leaders — a crucial part of our face-to-face work.

Fighting to end jogini system_blog photo

Village leaders are empowered women volunteers who act as our eyes and ears in their own villages. They are often the first to hear about girls who are about to be dedicated as joginis. They are the crucial link in stopping these dedications.

These leaders also advocate against the jogini system in their village, identify joginis in their village and provide support to each one, connect joginis with DFN staff, and represent joginis needs in the local government.

Mybamma, a former jogini, has been a village leader for the last five years. At the age of 10, she was dedicated to Goddess Yellamma as a jogini at the insistence of her father. He would not only avoid having to pay a dowry for her, but would instead receive a financial “gift” at the time of her dedication.

The trauma of the ceremony and initiation were further compounded when her father passed away a week later. She was used by many men and became pregnant more than once in her teen years. Due to her young age and impoverished state, her first two children passed away during the deliveries. Her third child is now Mybamma’s pride and joy.

When Mybamma learned of DFN’s work, she quietly sat in the back of their meetings while learning about her rights and the value of her life. With the support of our staff, she had the courage to leave the system.

While she continues to struggle in her village as a result of this decision, she is determined to not go back, and in fact, she works to help other women in her position.

In addition to her daily labor job, she also spends her time teaching other women and counseling her neighbors with young daughters.

We couldn’t do the work we do without the brave actions and strong spirit of women like Mybamma. She encourages us to continue the long fight no matter what obstacles arise.

We hope to continue our expansion of programs into new villages and increase the trainings and support we can provide. Will you join us in our work?

Free A Woman Today

Free A Woman, Change a Life

Did you know India ranks as one of the most dangerous countries for women and girls to live in?

We are continually encouraged as the Government of India introduces new policies, laws and programs that aim to eliminate this violence.

We are also encouraged by compassionate friends — like you — who join us in our work to not only help prevent violence, but to empower women to heal from trauma, become independent, and live with dignity.

Women and girls who become joginis (ritual form of sex slavery) almost always come from an impoverished family and community. They often have poor nutrition and live in unhygienic conditions. Sadly, these women have an average life expectancy of only 39.5 years, according to a 2018 health survey by the Indian Government.

At DFN, we’re working to change this statistic and help more women become free.

For example, our Anti-Human Trafficking Project gave micro-grants to 25 former sex workers to start a new, clean and honest living.

Balavva was one such recipient. When she was just a young girl, Balavva was sold into the trafficking trade. Her childhood and right for a healthy family atmosphere where she is loved, cared for and protected, was taken from her before she even became a teenager.

This tragedy continued in Balavva’s life for more than 40 years.

Until now.

At 48-years-old, Balavva has a new chance at life because of the Anti-Human Trafficking Project. With her grant, she started a cottage goatery where she produces and sells goat milk and goat milk-products, such as yogurt and cottage cheese, to those living in her village. She is now a thriving member of the local economy, instead of being auctioned in the former flesh trade she was involved in.

Free a woman Change a life_blog photo

Shivalila is also a brave and empowered woman who has turned her life around.

At 35, Shivalila stays at home to raise and educate her two sons. She is all too familiar with the trafficking trade as she was forced into this life as a child for more than 25 years.

Not only did she lose her precious childhood, education, and right to a happy, healthy life, she also lost her self-esteem over the years.

A few months ago, Shivalila received a micro-grant and began a vegetable vending business. She was overjoyed to be running a legitimate business for the first time in her life.

We are thrilled to share these kinds of success stories with you. And we want to thank you for helping make them possible!

Will you continue joining us in our work to empower more women like Balavva and Shivalila?

 

Free A Woman Today

Educating our Future Generations

“One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.” -Malala Yousafzai

In 2012, Malala Yousafzai, a young, well-known human rights advocate, boldly pursued her right to an education in Pakistan amidst an immediate threat of violence.

Her story and actions have inspired a worldwide passion for helping women and children receive an education, especially those coming from extremely challenging circumstances.

At DFN, we are incredibly passionate about providing an education to all, so children like Tejas and Chhakuli will have a brighter future.

Tejas, who is in Grade Two at a DFN school, attends with his older sister. They come from an impoverished and challenging background. Their father works hard to support the family by running a three-wheeler taxi service. Unfortunately, Tejas’ mother suffered from a long-drawn illness that put the family into further financial crisis.

Sadly, after a long duration of medical treatment, she passed away. The family grieved heavily after this loss.

However, with the help and loving encouragement from the school staff, they were able to work through their grief and move on. They received emotional support and practical help during this time. Eventually, Tejas began progressing in his studies and social activities.

We are thrilled to see his improvement and look forward to watching him continue on this bright journey.

educating future generations_blog photo

Chhakuli, only in Grade One, is one of our newer students. She comes from an impoverished and marginalized family. Her father, an unskilled laborer, works in a wayside eatery and her mother picks up manual labor jobs when she is able to. Barely making ends meet, the family lives in small shanty housing.

Although she is just beginning, Chhakuli shows great interest in her studies and in fine arts, such as classical dance and singing. Her parents continually encourage her to do her best. With the help and guidance of her teachers, she is showing great progress.

Educating our future generations goes beyond academics. It begins with instilling hope and encouragement in the lives of the most vulnerable.

We are thankful to all of our friends and supporters, who make stories like these possible!

Give To Education Today

 

Educating future generations_blog photo2

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.

Healthcare program for joginis_blog photo

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!

Free A Woman Today

A Life Restored

Human trafficking. Forced labor. Sexual exploitation.

All of these words tie into a severe injustice in this world. Around the world, women and young girls are in forced labor. At its worst, they are being used for sexual exploitation.

Young girls like Rekha.

Before she even reached her teen years, Rekha was married off, but it was simply a cover for her dedication as a “jogini” — a traditional practice, outlawed but still in place in some areas of India.

Although Rekha attended school as a child and completed grade seven, her parents struggled to support the family through various odd jobs. So she was married to her older cousin and sent to live with him and his family.

Being a young teenager, Rekha struggled to assimilate to her new married life. Her husband’s family was unkind to her and treated her like a servant maid. Even worse, she was expected to have relations with their son.

Due to this early trauma, Rekha began to have nightmares and was sent back and forth between her parents’ home and her husband’s home.

There was no safe place for her. She was alone.

She soon believed that her fate was destined to be worse than that of a street dog, as she saw her young life crumbling around her.

Thanks to your generosity and support, DFN was able to reach out to Rekha and bring awareness to an issue that continues being unseen by many.

Rekha’s husband eventually married another woman and although her life didn’t change overnight, her parents came forward to stand by her and help her.

With your support, Rekha has a new respectable vocation, dignified social status and is now looking forward to a better future.

But she is just one of thousands who need your help.

 

Please consider more girls like Rekha as we continue to fight against tragic injustices 

Two Options, Same Outcomes

A few months ago, the DFN team had a brainstorm. We thought, “What would it look like if we offered our fantastic partners more options to fund a Dalit child’s education? Traditional child sponsorship is great, but it’s probably not a fit for everyone who wants to make a difference.”

So in early 2015, we launched a brand new way to be involved: scholarships. Of course, having a different option always creates questions.

  • How does it work?
  • What is the difference between scholarshipping a child and sponsoring a child?
  • Do the funds go to the same place?
  • What are the benefits to each?
  • And probably most important … How do I know which is right for me?

To answer these questions, we have created a side-by-side comparison of sponsorships and scholarships. And here it is!

Sponsorship Vs Scholarship (5)

 

It doesn’t matter which you choose.The child receives the same education, the same curriculum, the same resources, attends the same schools, and is taught by the same teachers – it’s just that the funding is a bit different.

For some, scholarships fit your needs and resources best; for others, especially those who wish to invest in a relationship with one particular child (or children), sponsorship is the right choice.

One of the main things to keep in mind is that it takes $360 to fully fund each child’s education for one year. Compare that to the U.S. cost of $11,332 per student in public elementary and secondary schools (according to the National Center for Education Statistics for 2010-11, the latest year statistics are available.) Wow, that’s a bargain.

The other thing to note is that if you choose scholarship, more of your donation goes directly to fund the child’s education because the administrative costs are lower. Sending annual reports and managing correspondence for individual children is more labor intensive.

Even though it costs more to manage, DFN has no plans to discontinue child sponsorship because that is the right option for many of our partners.

As we wind down our annual Fresh Start campaign which ends on August 31, our hope is that you will help fund the education that can help make dreams a reality for thousands of Dalit children and their families. This is a great time to be involved because your donations are doubled at this time of year. That’s an opportunity too good to pass up.

Thanks for your partnership and for standing with the Dalits of India. You are appreciated!

 

Give to Scholarship Fund Now

Sponsor A Child Now

Meet Advik

Fresh Face, Fresh Start: Advik

advik

Exactly one year ago, 7-year-old Advik* was nervous. It was the first day of school, and as he put on his new uniform and gathered his supplies, he worried. “Will people like me? Will my teacher be nice? Will I do well in my classes? Is this year going to be different?”

He had reason to be anxious. It was his very first day at his new Good Shepherd School located in Odisha state. His father had decided to transfer Advik from the local government-run school where he didn’t excel academically and didn’t feel like anyone cared about him. He even felt afraid.

That day, Advik joined 64 other students who were brand new to the school, each with their own fears and expectations. Over the next 10 months, all 184 students and 13 staff learned, laughed, grew, and formed a community. A community that fosters hope. Dignity. Independence. One that encourages dreams. One that treats all students as equals.

This year, Advik goes back to school confident and secure. He says, “My new school makes me very happy, and I am not afraid anymore. I like my teachers and my friends, and I like to learn English.” Advik has a dream of becoming a police officer so he can serve his nation.

This is what attending a Good Shepherd School can do for a child. Each school not only provides a quality, accredited English-medium education, it fosters an environment and atmosphere free of discrimination where children can flourish because they know they are cared for. They know they are equal. They know they are valuable.

But the need is great. Of the 184 students in this school, only 15% have the cost of their education funded through a scholarship or sponsorship. 15%!

As we near the end of our 10,000 Reasons to Give a Fresh Start initiative, would you consider helping increase that number? It’s not just Advik’s school that needs help. Across India, nearly half of the 27,000 students who attend a Good Shepherd School do not have their education funded yet. And in the 2015-16 academic year, we anticipate 3,000 new admissions! More students means more opportunity for us, and more need.

This is a perfect time to get involved, because every dollar you give during the Fresh Start emphasis
will be matched once the funds reach India. Please help Advik and the other 156 students at his school
who do not have their education funded. They need you to help them make their dreams come true.

More About Advik’s School

Help Fund A Child’s Education

*name changed to protect privacy and security

Global Day of Parents |Celebrating sacrifice and hope.

Happy Global Day of Parents! Haven’t heard about it?

Here is the official UN statement:

The Global Day of Parents is observed on the 1st of June every year. The Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 2012 with resolution A/RES/66/292 and honors parents throughout the world. The Global Day provides an opportunity to appreciate all parents in all parts of the world for their selfless commitment to children and their lifelong sacrifice towards nurturing this relationship.

In its resolution, the General Assembly also noted that the family has the primary responsibility for the nurturing and protection of children and that children, for the full and harmonious development of their personality, should grow up in a family environment and in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.

The resolution recognizes the role of parents in the rearing of children and invites Member States to celebrate the Day in full partnership with civil society, particularly involving young people and children.

We want to take this day to celebrate Dalit parents.

At DFN we exist to help and support Dalits in their quest for freedom, education, opportunity and equality in the communities where they live. We come alongside Dalit families to help provide a quality education for their children, one which they could not have afforded without help.  Dalit parents, like parents all over the globe, want the best for their children. They want their kids to have a better life than they have had. We are grateful to support these parents in their dreams for their children.

 

Student Transportation 290

Market19

The following reports from some of our schools illustrate just how much a subsidized education means to parents:

Raja is in 4th grade. His village is quite a distance from school, yet he walks there daily. His father is a farmer who makes very little money and his family struggles to provide the bare essentials. Raja’s father believes that the presence of  the Good Shepherd school will help in the overall progress of their community and claims that others with similar situations could not imagine educating their kids anywhere else. Raja has ambition to become a first class officer.

Asha is a little girl studying in the first grade of a Good Shepherd school. Her father is a farmer.  He says he is happy to see Asha speaking and reading English and especially enjoys when she sings phonics songs and reads books. He also says,  “Our GS School has brought hope in the life of poor parents to fulfill their dream to educate their own children.”

 

Slumhome6

Slumhome2

Do you ever think about what sacrifices you would be willing to make for an education for a child you love?

We want to take a moment this Global Parents Day to stand with Dalit parents to honor the love, choices, and sacrifices they make every day on behalf of their children.

Please consider joining our Fresh Start 10,000 Reasons effort to support more Dalit parents in their hopes and dreams for their children’s education and lives.

 

10,000 Reasons

The global Dalit Freedom Network has been challenged to free 5,000 children in 2015. 5,000! 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

 

Good Shepherd Schools | A Classroom Tour

There are 107 Good Shepherd schools scattered around the whole of India. As you can imagine, the “classroom” in a GS school can look very different from school to school, state to state, community to community. We wanted to give you a peek into a few of the different faces of GS classrooms.

Although the classrooms vary dramatically, you will notice one constant in each one: Dalit children being given a chance at a new life through education. We are so grateful to the teachers and other staff members at each and every one of our schools, who choose to show up and teach these children, whether in a s modern classroom, or a refurbished chicken coop classroom.

Will you partner with us this month to get more Dalit children into the classroom this year?

 

SLUM SCHOOLS

Slum schools are located in major cities with a large population of Dalits. They are all a little different. Some provide classes up through 5th standard, and one slum school goes through 10th standard (the equivalent of 12th grade here in the states).  In addition to their education the school provides a safe place for children and prepares them to enter public school with confidence.  In large part the number of grades/classes depends on the space available. We are always looking to expand as much as finances, staffing and space allows. We have 5 slum schools at this time.

 

Rasoolpura 189 Rasoolpura 231 IMG_8842 IMG_8852 IMG_8918 IMG_8938

 

VILLAGE SCHOOLS

Village schools are the most common with just under 100 all over India. These are the schools that are started in former school buildings, or other rented facilities available in the community. One school is actually on a former chicken farm. The classrooms used to be chicken coops! These schools start out with 4 classrooms and we aim to add one classroom per year. Village schools come in all shapes and sizes.

 

IMG_7511 IMG_7525 IMG_7635 IMG_7644 IMG_7818 IMG_7922 20150219-IMG_0215 GSS Urban19 GSS Urban22 GSS Urban29 GSS Urban32 GSS Urban34 GSS Urban61

 

FLAGSHIP SCHOOLS

“Flagship” is a term we use internally  to describe the schools that are exemplary of what we hope to see each school become; fully constructed (with classrooms through 10th standard as well as libraries, computer labs and other extracurricular support rooms), top rated in the state, and fully funded. There are 3 of these schools at the moment.

Uddamarry3

Uddamarry7 Uddamarry33 Uddamarry63

Uddamarry20 Uddamarry61 Uddamarry68 Uddamarry72 Uddamarry84 Uddamarry91 IMG_2888 IMG_2938 IMG_2953 IMG_8484 IMG_8487

 

No matter what kind of school, what kind of classroom, these kids have a space to learn and dream about a future of freedom and hope. They are treated with dignity and respect as they should be. These classrooms are sacred spaces and we long to see more and more children have access to an education like this. Will you join us in making a difference?

 

10,000 Reasons

The global Dalit Freedom Network has been challenged to free 5,000 children in 2015. 5,000! 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

Fresh Start | Pranitha’s Story

When our team visited India in February, we had the delightful pleasure of meeting Pranitha. After sitting with her and hearing her story, we felt she embodied the hope and future of our work in India. Her story is a beautiful story of how a Dalit child goes from next to zero options in a life of poverty to becoming a Doctor of Pharmacy… simply because someone cared enough to fund her education.

 

IMG_8803

IMG_8785

 

We could tell you Pranitha’s story. We could tell you how thankful she is for the education she received. But Pranitha herself is much better at sharing her own story and thoughts. And we are truly grateful to have been able to hear from her.

 

Pranitha’s story is not an anomaly. There are 10,000 other stories out there…

 

10,000 Reasons

The global Dalit Freedom Network has been challenged to free 5,000 children in 2015. 5,000! 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