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 

Hope Prevails After Tragic Loss

Life is not easy for low caste families in India. Many parents struggle day-to-day to put food on the table, much less have enough money to send their children to school. Many times, all that a family has — is each other.

But what happens when even a loved one is taken away?

At age 3, little Aarav learned these life lessons the hard way. His father is a manual laborer, barely making enough each day to make ends meet. His older brother and sister have already discontinued their education in order to make a living. Like many others, his brother took a low-paid, unskilled job in his late teens. His sister was married early and now lives with her in-laws.

Aarav still had his mother and father, until his mother contracted a severe flu infection. Because of their impoverished life, her condition worsened instead of improving.

They didn’t understand how ill she had become, nor had the literacy or resources to seek medical help. It’s a common and unfortunate reality for many families living in poverty.

At only three-years-old, Aarav lost a loving mother who wanted for a brighter future for him.

However, thanks to friends like you, there was hope looming on his horizon.

Hope for education…hope for love…and hope for a better life.

Aarav is now six years old and is a flourishing student at one of our schools — an opportunity that happened because someone like you cared.

Teacher and students at a Good Shepherd School

The staff at school carefully monitor Aarav’s health and social progress. When he doesn’t have enough nutrition, they ensure he is fed properly and understands the importance of eating healthy and attending school.

It’s a holistic approach that not only gives Aarav a better chance at leaving poverty behind, but helps him develop healthy interactive social skills, increases his academic performance and lets him know he is loved and cared for.

We are grateful for partners like you who make stories like this possible!

 

Give to education today to help more children like Aarav!

 

Empowered Women Take Action — Make Brooms!

During a visit to a rural village near Pondicherry, India, staff members from our Economic Development program received an unexpected lesson.

The initial purpose of the visit was to hold a meeting with the poor women of the village who did not have the items (or grant money) needed to generate income through cottage dairies, goat farming, and vegetable or fruit vending.

With the help of supporters and encouragement of village elders, we met with the women to present grant ideas and supply them with the commodities needed to get started in these business ventures.

To our surprise, the response to our idea and presentation was near silence. A village elder let us know that the women had something to say.

Their voices needed to be heard.

The women were thankful for the idea of being blessed with a grant to help them start economic ventures of their own. They were empowered by the generosity of supporters like you, to help them move out of poverty.

They stood up and asked for permission to choose which supplies and sustainable business they wanted to pursue — broom-making.

In their village, there was an ample supply of raw material, such as inexpensive dry coconut leaf spines, binding cords/twines, small axes and knives for chopping, and chopping boards. They shared with us and the village elders that all of these commodities would be well within the $10 per person grant parameters.

It was an inspiring scene made possible by empowered women who were able to speak their minds.

Not only did these women have the manpower, raw material and know-how, but they were determined to produce something out of seemingly nothing.

The inspiration did not end there.

Within 24 hours of approving this new grant, these highly-motivated rural, impoverished women got to work and produced the first set of brooms to be sold!

By starting with a voice — these women continued to progress economically through their broom-making venture, all to leave poverty behind.

Our staff members returned to headquarters amazed, inspired and rejoicing that they had learned something radically new from these empowered women.

We couldn’t support powerful hard-working individuals like these without your help and we are thankful for you. Your investment changes lives!

Not All Superheroes Wear Capes

Many of us are familiar with the often-caped superheroes that star in blockbuster movies each summer. While these “heroes” save lives and overcome villains, their story ends when the movie ends.

Fortunately, for many poor children around the world, a different kind of superhero exists. One that doesn’t wear a cape, but changes lives — in a behind-the-scenes but transformative way.

These superheroes are teachers at Good Shepherd Schools.

Thanks to your support, we are able to hire those with a passion of serving poor children in India in order to make a lasting impact in their lives.

“God, unbelievably, is using me to work in this community of people to serve His word to the people,” says one Good Shepherd School manager.

“Through English-medium education, students can change their life,” he says.

At Good Shepherd Schools, our superheroes teach students how to speak to English, encourage them, give them hope, and change the trajectory of their lives.

The difference between a village school and our schools, is that children are taught the English language, which gives them the opportunity for university-level education. If a student does not learn English, he or she has little hope of rising above their current level of poverty.

Good Shepherd School teachers guide each student in pursuing future careers according to each students’ interests, strengths and academic potential.

“If they learn English, they can work outside anywhere. They are able to learn. They are able to now practice daily. I have many parents come to me and they are so happy for what we are doing in the school, for the education we are giving to the children.”

These heroes don’t require an audience. They don’t have superpowers. But what they lack in flash, they make up for in heart.

“I’m so glad to be working this school as its manager.”

When you give to support education, it means the world to the students and teachers. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of so many!

Watch the video above to hear from one of our many superheroes!

 

Inspired Women Inspire Women

Kavitha beams as she works her loom.

For the first time in her life she is free. With skills she learned at a vocational training center and with the encouragement of other women in her self-help group, Kavitha is proud to have a skill she can use to support her family.

Picture1

It wasn’t always this way.

Like most Dalit women, Kavitha was born into extreme poverty and faced incredible hardship as she grew up. Unable to read or write, she was forced into domestic service with very long hours for very low pay. She said, “I thought the rest of my life would be spent like this. But thanks to my training, it’s not! I am making mats for people to use in their homes now. Not only am I helping myself, I am helping others. Thank you to those who helped make this possible.”

Kavitha is one of thousands of women who now inspire others. She gives them hope.

Last March, nearly 2,000 women gathered in locations all over India in a show of solidarity and sisterhood for a day. It was a mini-conference of sorts. Vocational training graduates were honored, achievements were celebrated, and local dignitaries brought greetings. In one village, the women were able to shut down a shop that sold illegal alcohol, and they also organized a midday meal program in their local school to ensure students received adequate nutrition.

Exif_JPEG_420

Beyond the certificates and the celebrations are the friendships made and the inspiration women give each other. Many women living in poverty are isolated. With the daily struggle to survive, there is no time for friendships, relaxing, enjoying a cup of chai, and laughing. These mini-conferences give women the chance to be with each other, share their joys as well as their hardships. They leave the day renewed, inspired to share their stories with others in similar circumstances.

LKO Slum IWD and Graduvation  March 2017 (24)

This is the way communities are transformed.

They are transformed from the inside out. From the ground up. One conference participant, an agricultural worker, said, “This was the best day I had in a long time. I was able to meet new friends, and I was inspired by seeing those in my village receive certificates of achievement. It made me want to join a vocational program myself.”

We salute these women.

We lift them up. Each one is precious. Each one has worth. Each one has gifts she can use for good. At Dalit Freedom Network, we are committed to empowering women.

Patharia- Sagar IWD 2017 (34)

It takes just $5 to send a woman to a mini-conference. It takes just $100 to start a woman on the road to freedom. Will you join us in freeing Dalit women?

Free A Woman

 

Speak Up By Sponsoring a Child

The Ultimate Way to Speak Up

The most powerful tool against poverty is education because it unlocks potential. Through education, a child discovers the freedom to hope, to dream, to rise above their current circumstances. And, they have the skills that enable them to go to college, get jobs, and break free from the cycle of poverty.

Search For Your Child

 Bondugula_Web-10

When you sponsor a child through Dalit Freedom Network you are part of a global movement to free the most vulnerable children in India. Your sponsorship, combined with compassionate donations from individuals and organizations around the world, address the root causes of poverty and discrimination among the Dalits and other marginalized groups. Together, this is a catalyst that transforms entire communities.

Your $30 monthly sponsorship provides:
  1. A one-to-one relationship with your child, who receives a high quality English-medium education in a safe, loving environment with government-approved curriculum and fully qualified teachers.
  2. Access to healthcare services for students and their families, and supplemental nutrition where needed.
  3. Assurance that students’ family members have access to the full range of economic development opportunities provided through our Indian partner.

Begin Your Sponsorship


Sponsorship FAQs


 Student Stories

Speak Up By Gifting

You Can Speak Up for Dalits Simply by Giving a Gift!

If you are anything like us, you are immersed in Christmas preparation these days. There are trees to decorate, lights to hang, goodies to bake, and gifts to buy for those you love. This year, why not incorporate the Dalits of India into your Christmas gift-giving plans? It’s an easy way to “speak up” for Dalits this season!

DFN’s holiday catalog (new this year) offers options for every budget and need, beginning at just $5. You can purchase a month of education for a Dalit child, a desk and chair for a school, nutritional supplementation, and you can get a woman who has been impacted by the sex trade on her road to recovery!

 See Holiday Catalog

IMG_8270

 See Holiday Catalog

We have products, too! In fact, the store has something for nearly everyone on your list. And many items are on sale!

Below are a few sale items to choose from, but you can browse the entire store here.

elephants1

Small elephants are only $5 apiece. These adorable elephants are lovingly handcrafted by ladies in our vocational training centers. Silk and cotton elephants are available, but quantities are very limited, so act fast. (We also have medium-size elephants here.)

CauseGearToteTaupe

Tote bags/Sport bags: all items are now 50% off. These bags are a great way to “carry the Dalit story!”

rescue2_mockups_080515

T-shirts: save up to 30% on the latest styles.

DG_MegahX1

Candles and Soaps handmade by Dalit people: all items are on sale.

So many options, so much good to be done. Thanks for your support of the Dalits of India! Every purchase makes a difference, and we appreciate you.

Please note the last day to order a product in time for Christmas delivery is December 16. The last day to order a gift donation from the holiday catalog is December 21. Act now to avoid the last minute rush.

P.S. If you are purchasing a gift for someone, we’ll help you out with a card. Just indicate your preferences in the cart when you check out. If you have questions, feel free to email or give us a call at 757-233-9110.

How Else Can I Speak Up?

Tell people about this! Share the opportunity on Facebook and Twitter! Share this blog post using the links at the bottom of this page. See other ways to speak up here.

If you have any questions about the way this works, please e-mail us at info@dalitnetwork.org. We’ll answer your question right away!

Working to Eliminate Poverty

The Goal Is Community Transformation

20150222-IMG_1057

Six-year-old Raja wakes up each day around 4:00 a.m. He eats a hurried and scant breakfast of rice with a few lentils, carries water from the slum’s lone spigot to his mother, and by 5:00 a.m. is making the 3-mile trek on foot to his job at the fireworks factory. All day Raja toils, stuffing gunpowder into tiny tubes, dangerous and dirty work. He’s looking forward to Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, where he knows people will enjoy lighting the firecrackers he has made. He hopes his boss will give him a few free firecrackers so he can have some fun during the festival.

After an 11-hour workday, Raja journeys back to his family’s makeshift hut to rejoin his family. His father and older sister are day laborers in an agricultural field nearby, and they won’t arrive home for another couple of hours. His mother has been busy all day taking care of Raja’s baby brother and their elderly grandparents. All of them are hungry and there’s just not enough food to go around.

After a meal of more lentils and chapati (a type of bread), Raja is tired. He heads to his mat to sleep, knowing that tomorrow will be the same as today. He can picture no other life.

Raja is a Dalit. There are an estimated 250 million Dalits in India and about two thirds of them live in extreme poverty. They are at the bottom rung of society, considered “untouchable” by many. These are the people DFN serves.

To commemorate International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, we want to shed light and be hope because all over India, communities are rising up and being transformed from the inside out.

It begins with children, and education is the catalyst. The 107 schools we support form the foundation for community transformation.

But that’s not the only thing we stand for. We desire to serve the entire person, no matter the age, in a process we call the Community Transformation Model.

Community Transformation Model

Since many Dalits actually believe they are less than human, changing this belief demands a re-visioning of society. In recent years the Indian government has sought to address discrimination against Dalits by passing new laws and initiatives. These efforts are making a difference; however, Dalits still need others to come alongside them. So that’s what we do through our education, healthcare, anti-trafficking, and economic empowerment programs.

We believe eradication of poverty is possible when people have the tools and opportunity to create secure futures for themselves and their families. So that’s why DFN stands with the Dalit people. We invite you to do the same.

Want to help? Here are two ways you can make a difference today!

Sponsor a Child

Give to Education

Modern Slavery: Bonded Labor

Modern slavery exists in nearly every country, including the U.S.

In India, much of the trafficking takes place within the country, and most of the victims of modern slavery are Dalits, tribals, and others from poor and marginalized communities.

The Indian government is taking steps to address human trafficking and modern slavery within the country. Their actions include setting up Anti-Human Trafficking Units and fast-track specialist courts. The government is also addressing the pressure of poverty through programs such as the rural employment guarantee. Working with and alongside government initiatives, organizations like DFN and philanthropic individuals are tackling the issue in local communities. DFN works to prevent human trafficking through education of children most at risk, as well as through economic development initiatives,  and shelters for survivors and recovery counseling.

To commemorate the United Nations’ World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, which takes place on July 30 each year, we want you to learn about one of the most common types of modern slavery in India: Bonded Labor.

20150223-IMG_1335

Bonded Labor

Bonded labor is the most prevalent form of modern slavery in India today, despite being against the law. Individuals and families, including children, are exploited in slave-like conditions to pay off debt.

Here’s how it works. A lender, generally a landowner or factory boss, uses a number of tactics to exploit workers. The borrower is often forced to work for very low wages in order to repay the debt. Exorbitant interest rates (from 10% to more than 20% per month) are charged, and money lent for medicine, clothes, or basic necessities is added to the debt.

In most cases, up to half of the day’s wage is deducted for debt repayment. Further deductions are regularly made as penalties for breaking rules or poor work performance. The laborer uses what little income remains to buy food and supplies from the lender, at heavily inflated prices. They rarely have enough money to live on, so they are forced to borrow even more money just to survive. Any illness or injury, often due to the appalling working conditions, spells disaster. More money must be borrowed not only for medicine but also because the injured individuals cannot work.

20150222-IMG_1047

Sometimes the debts last a few years, and sometimes (especially in agriculture) the debts are passed on to future generations. When this happens, it becomes a vicious cycle virtually impossible to break.

What causes a person to get caught in this cycle? Many factors, including extreme poverty, lack of education and literacy (making it easier to exploit victims as they cannot keep track of their debits and credits), not owning property, and the lack of any reasonable alternative for victims are key conditions. In addition, little opportunity for alternative sources of income for basic needs drives people into a crippling debt agreement with an exploiter.

People can even find themselves trapped in bonded labor without actually borrowing money. For example, a ‘jamadar’ (agent) may offer an advance for a worker’s wages, or transport the worker to a new work site. Then, the workers discover they must pay back the advance or refund the cost of transportation.

20150222-IMG_1057

There are millions of bonded laborers in India. The majority (as high as 80-96%) are Dalits (Untouchables) and Adivasis (indigenous tribespeople).

Other types of modern slavery include sex trafficking, domestic servitude, beggar gangs, organ harvesting trafficking, and ritual sex slavery. Future blog posts will tackle these issues head on.

If you want to make a difference for those impacted by bonded labor, it takes as little as $30 to free a child for one month or $150 to free a woman through vocational training.

To see all giving opportunities, including traditional child sponsorship, please visit our campaigns page.

Thanks for standing with the Dalit people!