Meet Asha* (name changed for privacy purposes).
Asha was dedicated as a young girl to the goddess Yellamma to become a temple prostitute, a Jogini. This is an illegal practice that is still taking place in many parts of India today. Girls around the age of puberty (and sometimes much younger) are taken to the temple and given in “marriage” to the goddess of fertility. This girl, now called a Jogini, will be used sexually and abused by the temple priest at his will, as well as sold to wealthy men in the community for sexual purposes. Many Dalit families, especially in rural areas, give their daughters to this despicable practice out of ignorance and desperation. Often these families do not have the resources to provide a dowry to marry off their daughters to men in their communities. So they dedicate them to the temple, being told they will receive some money (at times) and or “favor” from the goddess.
Joginis live a harsh, destitute life, often exposed to sexually transmitted diseases and abused regularly. When a Jogini reaches an age where she is no longer as physically attractive, she is left with no skills, no other options for survival. Suicide rates for Joginis are quite high.
Asha had reached this phase of her life…. no longer being desired for her body because of her age and with little to no hope for her future. She was beginning to have suicidal plans and thoughts.
About this time, she met someone from one of our LAMP programs in her community. This group reached out to her, extending kindness and the possibility of a grant to start a business of her own – grinding and selling spices. She was skeptical, but eventually the desire for normal life propelled her to accept the grant and she purchased a spice pounding machine.
She cried tears of joy when the first packets of spices sold and she realized she could make an honest and dignified living for herself and two daughters (she has no idea who the fathers are). She now works with a community of women and has a respectable job that supports her family. She has experienced the love of Christ in her life through this community and her life has truly turned around for the better. In a couple of years, her daughters will be old enough to attend a local Good Shephard School and will never have to worry about living the kind of life their mother was forced into.
This is the beauty of extending a loving and empowering hand to women like Asha. Real life change happens. Real opportunity is on the line. These women simply need someone to believe in them, and offer a way out of their bleak existence as Dalit women, and Joginis.
You can read more about our Jogini/Devadasi programs here.
Join us this month, as we strive to extend a hand to Dalit women and help #makeithappen for them.
Did you know it costs only $100 to free a woman from a life-cycle of abject poverty? With an investment of $100, a woman can receive the means and training to start her own business… whether that is selling buffalo milk, a fruit and veggie cart, grinding and selling chili powder, tailoring and sewing projects. It is such a minimal investment with an immeasurable return.