Manual Scavenging | The Hidden Economy of Poverty

For those of us who live in developed countries with adequate plumbing and sanitation facilities, this economy doesn’t even exist. And even in developing countries, this economy doesn’t exist for most.

But for caste societies — such as those we work with at DFN — manual scavenging is a very real issue of social injustice perpetuated generation after generation.

Manual scavenging is the degrading practice of cleaning human excreta in dry latrines with bare hands and carrying it for disposal in dumps, lakes, or rivers. It also includes cleaning sewers, septic tanks, open drains into which excreta flows, and railway lines.

Sadly, because of the caste system in India, the most vulnerable individuals of the population are subjected to this occupation. This plight has only furthered their discrimination, exclusion, ostracization, and victimization in society.

Social activists Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan and Jan Sahas are fighting to abolish this abhorrent economy.

Over the years they have conducted a study about those affected by manual scavenging. They recently released their report, “Justice Denied” and a documentary, “The Cost of Cleanliness” at Deputy Speaker Hall in The Constitution Club of India, Rafi Marg, New Delhi. Four hundred members of the survivor families participated in the event to share about their experiences.

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The results of their study were shocking.

The focus of the study “was to understand the progress on implementation of the MS Act 2013, socio economic condition of the families after the death of the deceased and to analyze legal course of actions in the incidents in which (First Information Reports) FIR was registered. The survey was carried out in 11 states of India in which the families of the deceased from the respective states were interviewed.”

The MS Act 2013 (Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation) prohibits manual scavenging. However, they found that the practice still persisted, illegally at times.

They found that 300 individuals have lost their lives from 1992 to 2018 due to manual scavenging. But this practiced has affected many more over the years.

They also reported: The highest death rate of 37 percent was recorded in the age group of 15-25 followed by 35 percent and 23 percent in the age group of 25-35 and 35-45 respectively.

The report also includes legal action, prevention and rehabilitation for families and individuals.

Watch their documentary to learn more and read the full report and its findings here.

The manual scavenging economy is one of the many ways marginalized societies are oppressed and cast out from society. At DFN, we are committed to standing up for their rights — rights to education, health, and economic opportunity.

When you support our work, you’re helping these individuals to break the cycle of poverty and discrimination in their lives — for years to come.

Join us as we stand with India’s people.

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The Trickle-Down Effect of the Jogini System | Kumaramma’s Story

Meet Kumaramma.

At 25, she is a loving, hard-working daughter, mother and widow. Sadly, her husband passed away two years ago due to a fatal illness. But she has persevered and is raising her three-year-old daughter as a single mother.

After his death, Kumaramma began working in a  factory to provide for her family. She lives with her mother and daughter in a small hut.

Unlike her mother, Kumaramma has escaped the life of a jogini (ritual form of sex slavery) in her village. However, growing up she faced much prejudice from her peers and others in the community because her mother was a jogini.

As an adult with a steady job and a child she loves, she put the jogini stigma behind her.

Or so she thought.

There are many different ways the jogini system in India has affected women over the centuries — not all of it directly.

As she was working in the factory one day, an iron plate fell from the roof and landed on Kumaramma’s leg. She was badly injured and bleeding profusely. Her friends rushed her to the local clinic for treatment. After a few days, she realized the injury was not healing and the wound was getting more and more painful.

Subsequent visits to the doctor didn’t help either.

So she decided to try Hindu acts of worship, known as Pujas, for her healing. The belief in her village was that these Pujas performed by a temple priest will heal any ailment. They are also quite expensive. But, Kumaramma was desperate for her leg to heal so she could return to work. She took the advice of her relatives and went to many different temples for multiple Pujas.

None of these ceremonies healed her leg.

Kumaramma’s situation was becoming quite bleak. Without her job, she was unable to provide for her mother and daughter. Not only that, but the pain in her leg was becoming unbearable.

A DFN health worker was visiting Kumaramma’s village and learned of her situation. After a long talk with our health worker, Kumaramma agreed to visit a government hospital with our staff. The doctor was very attentive and asked for a complete background history of her wound and life, in addition to treating the leg.

He asked Kumaramma to take an HIV test.

Our staff supported Kumaramma through this as she was at first reluctant to take the test. Unfortunately, the result came back as positive.

Most likely in shock or denial, Kumaramma refused to take the medication. Our health workers continued to stay by her side and give her the support she needed to understand the seriousness of this illness and the benefits the medications would bring about.

As a result, she began taking the medication. Three months later and after regular follow up visits from our staff, Kumaramma is feeling much better and her wound finally healed!

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She has successfully returned to work and has expressed her gratitude for the support she received during this challenging time.

“If you did not come in time, I may not be in this world right now,” she said.

Kumaramma’s daughter was also tested and thankfully, her results came back negative. Although Kumaramma herself was not a part of the centuries-old jogini system, she suffered the trickle-down affects of sex slavery survivor.

There are many more women out there suffering a similar fate who need our help. Will you join us in our work to help them?

Free A Woman Today

Kerala Flood Aftermath | How Your Support Has Made a Difference

Recently, the Southern Indian State of Kerala experienced severe flooding due to a heavier than normal rainfall.

Sadly, the devastating resulting floods took hundreds of lives and displaced millions from their homes. Survivors were suddenly without water, food or shelter — many in need of urgent medical care.

But there is hope in restoration.

With your help, DFN has been able to send in a disaster relief team to provide food, supplies, medical aid, and assist in infrastructure repair.

Your generous response helped us get there — and it has made a tremendous impact.

Our flood relief team consisted of three nurses, two doctors with an ambulance, and 20 church team members.

The team encountered challenges right away, as access to the roads was very poor. Finding suitable accommodations was also difficult, as nearly all homes and buildings were destroyed.

However, the team overcame the challenges and immediately got to work.

Because of you, we were able to provide 1,000 families with a grocery kit that included, rice, flour, cooking oil, sugar, tea, spices, soap, and clean water.

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The medical staff visited nearly 100 homes and checked for flood-related illness. They also treated 458 men and women in medical camps.

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We were able to clean up flood rubble of 27 houses, so that they would be safe to reenter and live in. Our team also mended pathways around the houses.

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But, as with all disaster relief responses, the work has just begun.

Our team surveyed the area to learn that much more support is needed. About 80 percent of the individuals living in the Wayanad District have an agricultural-based income. And they experienced huge losses due to widespread damage to crops and loss of livestock.

We hope you’ll continue supporting us in our efforts, as we provide:

  • Twenty calves, one per family that lost livestock
  • Twenty sewing machines to women who lost theirs in the flood and use them as their main source of income
  • One hundred blankets, as the temperatures will be dropping significantly in this area over the next few weeks

We are so grateful for you continuous faithful support for times like these. Please also join us in praying for all those impacted by these floods as they work tirelessly to restore their communities and day-to-day lives.

Thank you for all that you do!

Give today to help flood victims in Kerala

A Prescription of Love and Support After a Lifetime of Abuse

When an individual visits the doctor for an ailment or injury, they are often treated on the spot or given a prescription for ongoing treatment.

These visits and prescriptions cost money. What doesn’t cost money is the love and support someone receives from family or friends after returning home, or while they are healing.

This type of treatment cannot be assigned a monetary value — it’s priceless.

Sadly, for 45-year-old Lagamavva in India, love is in short supply in her life but ailments are not.

Lagamavva first began visiting a DFN medical clinic earlier this year. She suffers from bad arthritis in her knees and needs nutritional supplements to remain healthy.

She quickly became a regular at the clinic, coming in every two weeks.

However, Lagamavva’s current health ailments pale in comparison to the lifetime of abuse and mental trauma she has suffered.

When Lagamavva was 12-years-old, she was dedicated as a temple prostitute. Her parents were struggling with their own health and finances. They believed if she was dedicated, the goddess Yellama would be appeased and their problems would be solved.

After spending two years being used by the men in her village, Lagamavva decided to run away to Mumbai, in search of a better life.

She arrived penniless and homeless.

A handsome man quickly befriended her and invited her to stay in his house. Desperate for a home, she agreed to go with him. She soon realized this invitation was not at all what it seemed.

She learned that this place was a brothel run by local gang leaders. She and three other girls suffered much in this home. Many men came and went, often armed with large knives.

Lagamavva was devastated, feeling she had just returned to the same abuse she was running from. But it was too late, the men would not let her leave. She was guarded day and night for many years.

It was a horrific time in her life.

Finally after eight years of sexual abuse, beatings and forced abortions, she decided she could no longer take it. She braved a risky escape by sawing through the grating in her window, climbed down two floors and crept away in the dark.

Sadly, she returned home to parents who no longer accepted her and a village that ostracized her.

That night she slept under a tree and, left in this vulnerable state, she was again assaulted by men.

It was after that night that Lagamavva knew that she needed to take care of herself and become an independent woman. Thus far, no one in her life had shown her any respect, care or love.

She built a hut made from sticks and tarpaulin. Her bathroom is the open field and her a kitchen a small fire outside her front door. It wasn’t much, but it was hers.

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Over the years, Lagamavva became pregnant and had four daughters. She loved her daughters and enrolled them in the government school, encouraging them to study hard.

As they grew older, her daughters began to reject her after finding out about her life as a prostitute.

Lagamavva now lives with her youngest daughter who has a job to help provide income, as she is unable to work due to her crippling knee pain.

With each visit to the medical clinic, DFN health workers continually encourage Lagamavva and let her know she is loved and cared for. Her life matters. She matters.

Join us as we continue praying and caring for women like Lagamavva, who often need more than simple medical treatment — a regular dose of tender loving care.

Disaster Relief | How You Can Help Save Lives in Kerala

Natural disasters, such as a tropical storms or earthquakes, can take the lives of many. But one thing many of us don’t often think about, is the cost to survivors long after a natural disaster has hit. Those living in impoverished areas are often left in a more vulnerable position than before.

What little food they were able to come by, is now gone. Clean water is no longer available. Roads and buildings are destroyed. School buildings demolished.

It’s during this time, that our response to those in need is most crucial — such as now.

(Please note: this video was provided by the Indian government and uses the Indian place value markers.)

The Southern Indian State of Kerala has experienced the heaviest rainfall recorded in well over 100 years. The resulting floods have taken hundreds of lives, separated families and communities, and displaced millions of people from their homes — with most having nothing to return to.

We need your help.

DFN is responding to this emergency by providing flood relief aid in the northeastern border district of Kerala. As a result of the flooding and landslides, many of the victims living in this area have lost their jobs and are now begging for drinking water, food and shelter. Many have been badly injured and need urgent medical care.

Kerala is located in the hills and is made up of significantly marginalized groups. These individuals are already extremely vulnerable and are now disproportionately affected by the flood damage.

Tragically, 80 people have lost their lives and thousands more are displaced from their homes. Only a few areas have electricity left and mobile towers are under water. Many of the roads are impassable and there is no longer a bus service leaving or heading into the area.

The situation is dire.

So, how is DFN responding?

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Our on-the-ground team members are providing food, supplies, medical aid and relief, and they are helping with infrastructure repair and restoration.

However, we need your support.

The most urgent immediate need is for provision of food and subsistence.

Our response team has designed food and subsistence kits to specifically address the most crucial needs and we will be delivering these kits at five locations in the region over the next 30 days. Our goal is to supply 5,000 kits throughout September.

Will you help us in achieving this goal?

Each kit is $15, but any donation amount is greatly appreciated. You can make an immediate impact and support those in dire need with a donation to help fund one — or more — of these life-sustaining kits.

Donate today to help save lives in Kerala

 

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Freeing One Child At a Time

Mother Theresa once said, “If you can’t feed one hundred people, then feed just one.”

At DFN, we believe the word feed is synonymous with teach, help, empower, free, and so on.

We especially believe in “feeding” as many individuals as possible with an education.

According to UNESCO, one in five children are currently not attending school. In fact, in 2016, 263 million children, adolescents and youth were out of school. This figure represents nearly one-fifth of the global population of this age group.

There are many reasons for these harrowing stats. For millions of children, the number one reason is poverty.

And while we cannot help all 263 million children at once, we can work every day to help free as many children as we can.

Whether that number is large or small — every child matters.

That’s why we are so thankful for compassionate friends like you — friends who make it possible to help children like Yamuna, Prakash, Sakshi, and Shoury receive an education.

Yamuna studies in Grade Three at a DFN school. She comes from an impoverished and marginalized community. Her parents are low-paid manual laborers and her family lives in a two-room home.

But even with these challenges, we are thankful that Yamuna is being offered the best possible quality English education. She is excelling in her studies and is a cheerful student with good relationships. Even better, her parents are equally excited about her schooling and future.

Prakash has just begun his studies and has a very bright future ahead of him. Normally, this wouldn’t be possible as his parents come from a poverty-stricken background. Both his father and mother work on a farm and are subject to unexpected low harvests and a meager income.

With your support, Prakash’s future looks very different. He is a lively child and pays attention to his studies.

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Sakshi’s parents are uneducated and live way below the poverty line. Her father drives a rickshaw and her mother does odd jobs in the homes of their neighbors.

Most parents in this situation often feel education is a luxury and would rather have their children start working as early as possible. But despite their financial challenges, Sakshi’s parents are very encouraging with her studies. With this encouragement, Sakshi is active in her class and enjoys activities such as singing, dancing and indoor games.

Shoury studies in Fourth Grade at a DFN school. Sadly, Shoury has a tragic family background. He lost his father at a young age and, unable to provide for him on her own, Shoury’s mother moved them in with his paternal grandfather.

Shortly after, this grandfather also passed away, leaving him behind with Shoury’s grandmother and his mother. With little to live on, Shoury and his mother then went to live with his maternal grandparents.

Despite the constant moving and loss of his loved ones, Shoury remains a committed student. He performs above average in his academics and his mother does her best to support him.
With so much of tragedy in their family, Shoury remains cheerful most of the time and keeps going!

We are so proud of each and every one of these students and look forward too seeing their futures unfold — a future filled and free of poverty.

Thank you for joining us in our work to “feed” as many children as possible!

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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.

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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

The True Value of Education

Did you know in Southern India many impoverished girls are discouraged from being educated?

Can you imagine being 12-years-old and instead of excitedly getting ready for a brand-new school year, you are instead told that your life isn’t worth the cost of education.

In fact, in many tribal areas stricken with poverty, when girls reach the age of 12 or 13, they are required to be completely housebound until marriage. This becomes a hindrance on families living in extreme poverty and parents often sell their daughters to the highest bidder.

These young girls are treated as slaves.

No one in this world deserves this type of treatment — especially young girls like Priyanka.

Priyanka’s parents were very forthcoming about the fact that they intend to sell her to a man in another city.

When teachers and school administrators of a nearby DFN school heard this news about Priyanka, they paid a special visit to her home.

The teachers sat down with her parents and explained the long-term benefits of entering (and keeping) Priyanka in school. They encouraged her parents to reconsider their decision.

Priyanka’s parents admitted they had never before though about a positive future for their daughter. It was the first time someone told them that with an education, she had the potential to become a doctor, engineer, teacher or public servant.

Though the payoff would not be immediate, Priyanka’s parents finally saw the true value of an education.

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There was much to celebrate when Priyanka’s parents agreed to enroll her in school.

Because of compassionate supporters like you, Priyanka was even able to receive a scholarship to ensure that nothing prevented her from studying.

Today, this special girl is now excelling in her studies. Her parents are active in her school activities and they have even started encouraging their friends and neighbors to enroll their daughters in school!

We love being able to share stories like this with you. And we are so grateful to be able to continue our work with the most vulnerable.

THANK YOU for standing with us and supporting our programs from where you’re at. You are changing lives!

 

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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.

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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

Leaving Poverty Behind to Make Dreams Come True

“Education is the only valid passport from poverty.” -Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th U.S. President

Former American president Lyndon B. Johnson was a great advocate for education and understood the significance of ensuring it was available to all children, regardless of socio-economic backgrounds.

It is with this same spirit and belief that DFN runs its education programs for the most vulnerable children in India.

But we couldn’t do this work without the support of compassionate friends like you.

Because of you, children like Roshini and Mathimaran are able to receive an education, pursue their dreams and ultimately, have the opportunity to leave poverty behind.

Roshini currently studies in 8th grade along with her older sister. They have been attending a DFN school since kindergarten.

Roshini comes from an impoverished family living in a marginalized community. A few years ago, she lost her mother to a fatal illness.

It was a great tragedy for the family.

Her father has always done his best to raise his daughters and provide for them, but since he is an unskilled laborer, he struggles to make a decent wage.

At school, Roshini excels in her studies. She has a natural aptitude for science and dreams of finding a career in science and technology. During the challenging time after the loss of her mother, staff members at the school were quite supportive of Roshini and her family. And they continue to encourage her at school, always telling her that she can make her dreams come true.

We believe she can — just like we believe Mathimaran can make his dreams come true as well.

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Mathimaran is in 6th grade and also comes from an impoverished family. His mother is a homemaker and, like many in his community, his father is an unskilled laborer.

Mathimaran lives further away from the school than most of the children, but is committed to attending every day. He commutes to and from the school on public buses.

He is a very good student and does well in his studies. Mathimaran has a very special dream. He is passionate about and gifted in the talent of music. He has competed and already won several awards for singing and playing instruments.

His dream is to become a musician. We can’t wait to see his dream come true.

When generous friends like you sponsor children like Roshini and Mathimaran, you become part of a global movement to help provide education to the most vulnerable children in India. You are making dreams come true.

Thank you for your compassionate support!