Earlier, I had written a post about a group of women who were still fighting for their freedom, even after 65 years of Indian Independence. Few days ago I visited the site of Milaap, and it was sheer pleasure to see that they were fully funded. I am not sure how big my contribution has been in the cause, even then I feel a sense of achievement. I am happy for these women.Success is the greatest motivator, and being motivated I wish to see another group of women achieve their goals. Kavita Sanadi and Group .
The beautiful textiles that Kavita, in the picture, sells are a stark contrast to the harsh struggle she has fought all her life to free herself and keep her two teen-aged children free of the ugly Devadasi system she had been inducted into as a little girl. She is a 43 year old single mother, from Chikodi village in the Belgaum district of Karnataka now earns a precious Rs.4500 per month which pays for her children to go to school and keeps her family fed, clothed, and with a roof over their heads. Wonder why? She may not know who the father of her kid is and even if she knew, he would not support them. She was pushed into the ugly system to be exploited and carry the cross of social discrimination forever. But, there is a ray of light in the form of Milaap and their supporters. We can help her and her friends who have similar stories to break the bonds of Devadasi system so that they can be Indian citizens like everyone else. These 3 women seek a loan of Rs.45,000, repayable over 18 months, to expand their small scale businesses. This loan will help them buy the raw materials needed to scale up and increase their meager revenues, ensuring a safe and secure future for their children and families.
Please visit the link Here to support them.
I could not stop my tears when I heard the women who had been through the ordeal talk about their experiences. Their success in coming out of the system meant a huge step. It was as though they were thrown into a whirlpool but instead of giving up, they learnt to swim and reached the shore. We cannot praise the ladies enough for wiping the system of devadasi from our society.
The youngsters working for Milaap gave me hope of better India. All the youngsters were passionate about their goal and were driven by the mission of changing the way people fund and impact communities in need. Every day, they connect hundreds of hardworking borrowers looking to start a small business, pay for education, install better facilities in their households, and more – with people around the world willing to lend and rally their friends and family with as little as Rs. 500 ($25).
The issue touched at the Hope Project was about the Devadasis of Karnataka. Though the word Devadasi means, a slave to God or a Deity, in reality the young women or girls are forced to have sex with mortal beings. During the medieval period, the Devadasis were regarded as a part of the normal establishment of temples; they occupied a rank next only to priests and their number often reached high proportions. The Devadasis enjoyed high social status which cannot justify forcing a girl into something she did not desire. But, worst was to come. The temples of India lost their wealth and also the patrons of kings who supported them. Many temples were destroyed. This forced the devadasis into a life of poverty, desolation and in many cases they turned into mere prostitutes. The system involved dedicating a girl, as young as 5-6 years of age, to the temple Goddess. This meant that she would spend her entire life serving the temple and was not allowed to marry anyone else. She was left at the mercy of the society with no one to protect her. The system was abused by the rich and the powerful who began to force the young Devadasis to sleep with them. They suffered shame and economical downfall in the society. From being referred to as jogini, basivi and other rude names, they became an exploited lot. In Karnataka the devadasis of deity Yellamma are known to have existed for more than 10 centuries.
The devadasi system has been outlawed in all of India in 1998 but that has not stopped the practice all together. The clue can be seen in the fact that many of the present day Devadasis come from economically and socially backward families. Over the years, the Devadasis were reduced to being incorrectly termed 'temple prostitutes'. This merciless practice, though illegal and outlawed, still exists in certain small towns of India and its stigma continues to cling to the women who attempt an escape. Because of the social stigma around their roles, employment opportunities are denied to them. It is a vicious cycle where future generations too, are drawn into this ruthless system. Superstition and religious beliefs are not the only factors that are chasing these young women into the vortex of flesh trade.
The Hope Campaign launched by Milaap is the result of collaboration between Milaap and ASSET India Foundation. Milaap focuses on entrepreneurship as one of its primary impact areas, while ASSET looks to provide women (and their children) rescued from trafficking, with livelihood skills and opportunities.
Through this campaign, they aim to shed some myths about this practice and invite small loans for the micro enterprises of these women. With these small loans, the women can set up small businesses and escape from this cycle of hopelessness. Over the last 3 years, Milaap has raised over Rs 7.5 Crores, impacting nearly 40,000 lives across 10 states in India. You can be a part of the HopeProject too. Join hands and make a small contribution towards the cause. It may a long way in helping someone find ground once again under their feet.