In a time when the #MeToo movement, women’s marches and the fight for equal pay have been dominating our national media landscape, incredible empowerment efforts are also happening worldwide.
While these movements and cultural mindset shifts have been successfully helping thousands of women in America and other countries, it’s the oppressed women fighting poverty and centuries-old sex slavery traditions in South Asia, that we at DFN long to help set free.
Because all women — regardless of age, ethnicity, background, or financial status — deserve to live a thriving life full of hope, love and respect. So with your support, we recently implemented an empowerment program aimed to help women such as these recover from stressful and traumatic life events.
During this powerful program, DFN health and field workers guided and trained 20 young girls. All of the girls are from an area in India stricken with poverty and where the jogini (ritualized prostitution) tradition is still practiced. Most of these girls have been sexually assaulted or come from very vulnerable situations. Some are even the daughters of joginis.
As a result of these conditions, many of these young girls struggle to lead a normal life and blend into society. Some are unskilled laborers, while others live with the stigma of being a jogini.
During the program, these young women attended sessions that taught them about controlling emotions, overcoming trauma, facing one’s fears, how to deal with negative thoughts, forgiving others and moving forward, and understanding one’s identity. They were taught to see and understand their gifts, skills, talents, interests and passions, so that they can lead a purposeful life.
Sessions even included breathing exercises to help encourage calmness and lower heart rates — all simple tools anyone can use to help cope with traumatic situations.
The feedback from the program was overwhelming.
Many of the young girls said they felt hope and encouragement, and each had the opportunity to share about their personal gain with the others. A celebration was held at the end of the program to celebrate each girls’ progress.
Not only did the participants feel equipped to handle life successfully, but many felt honored, respected and valued for the first time in their lives.
The opportunity for change did not stop there.
We encouraged all the girls to join our vocational training center after completing the program so they could have opportunities to study tailoring, jewelry making, computers, cosmetology and to learn English.
We are thrilled to say that 16 of the 20 girls have joined these courses and are on their way to changing their lives for the better!
We are especially happy for one participant in particular, a daughter of a jogini, who was called home immediately after completing the empowerment program. Her sister passed away and her family encouraged her to come back to the village and be with her family indefinitely. After a period of mourning with her family and grieving the loss of her sister, this participant proudly announced to her family that she would like to take advantage of these new opportunities and pursue her desire to learn tailoring and cosmetology
We look forward to receiving her in the vocational center!
Such has been the impact of the empowerment program, that this young girl and many more, are seizing the opportunity to break the shackles of poverty and shame in their lives.