Did you know that India is the 4th most dangerous country for women and children to live in? Life is far from easy for Dalits, especially for Dalit women and children as they are most vulnerable to exploitation.
As many as 250,000 women are caught in temple prostitution in India right now, despite it being outlawed two decades ago. Girls as young as five years old are being dedicated to the temple. When they reach puberty, they are then forced into a lifetime of ritual sex slavery.
Education is one of the best ways to prevent this kind of prostitution. In this newsletter, I want to share with you a graduate success story—about Saroja, who was able to see her dream come true.
Thank you for your support over the summer. It means everything to those children living in rural India who are able to receive a high quality, English-medium education because of your generosity.
With a grateful heart,
Executive Director Dalit Freedom Network Canada
The vast majority of girls trapped in temple prostitution are Dalit. Viewed as less than human, they are often denied access to education. As a result, Dalit girls become vulnerable to the worst forms of exploitation—including temple prostitution. This cycle of discrimination, abuse, and poverty is passed from one generation to the next.
Research shows that education, particularly educating girls, is one of the best tools for preventing exploitation and human trafficking.
The goal of the Prevention Through Education Project is to rescue children from sex slavery before they even enter it. This is achieved by helping at-risk children get off the streets and into a classroom.
Dalit Freedom Network is uniquely positioned to help these vulnerable children because of the four Good Shepherd Schools that are established across the Temple Prostitution Region of India. These schools are already helping hundreds of children that are impacted by temple prostitution—children like Preema, whose mother was forced into temple prostitution at an early age and endured years of abuse.
Today Preema is being equipped with English, math, science and everything she needs to thrive. For the first time, she can imagine a life beyond the horror of prostitution—and her dream is to become a teacher.
Saroja was three years old when her father abandoned her. Because her mother was illiterate, she was only able to do menial odd jobs to support the two of them. Her meagre income was barely enough to feed them.
They lived with her grandmother in the Ceylon colony at Sivakasi. During the day, Saroja roamed wherever she wanted, refusing to listen to her grandmother. This worried her mother but she was helpless to do anything about it because she had to work.
“I cannot describe in words the joy that I have now.” — Saroja
Saroja’s mother blamed her fate on not being educated enough to find jobs that paid well. Even though they lived in abject poverty, she hoped for more for her daughter. She hoped that one day her daughter would be able to study and study well.
Thankfully that day came when Saroja was enrolled at a Good Shepherd School. The school provided English medium education, and her fees were sponsored. “I learned so much in my years at school,” said Saroja. Now 22 years old, she remembers her school days with fondness. Her dream was to become a teacher like the teachers she had at Good Shepherd School. She went on to pass her first two years of college, eventually having the opportunity to attend teachers training where she studied diligently and passed with good grades.
After her training was complete, she knew she wanted to give back to the poor and vulnerable in her community. “I could think of no better way to do this than by joining the Good Shepherd School,” said Saroja. Now she is a teacher at the very school where her life changed for the better all those years ago. “I cannot describe in words the joy that I have now,” said Saroja, “Not only is my family happy and no longer financially vulnerable, but every day I get the privilege of teaching these little ones who have endured similar ordeals as I did.”
Please give generously to make education possible for other Dalit children just like Saroja.
It’s not often that a child gets to meet their sponsor, but Pavithra was able to meet hers. Lynn and her husband had been writing letters back and forth with their sponsor child, Pavithra, for several years. Then Lynn joined a team of 13 on a trip to India. While there, the team visited five different schools in Hyderabad, one of which was Bondugula, Pavithra’s school.
When Lynn met Pavithra for the first time, she was able to see the classroom where Pavithra does her studies, and meet her teacher and her friends. She even joined the girls for lunch, and afterwards they all played a game of Kho Kho, a popular traditional tag game in South Asia.
“Being sponsors is a great experience for us, but pales in comparison to the benefits Pavithra receives”
“We are confident that Dalit Freedom Network is making a difference for her now as well as creating positive outcomes for her future.”
Please give generously to make education and freedom possible for poor and marginalized children in India. Your contribution will open up possibilities through education that could only be dreamed of before.