As I visit our Good Shepherd Schools in India and meet the children, I have, on many occasions, been given opportunities to also greet the mothers of our students. These Dalit women have no conveniences, and work solely to care for their children. They cook over open fires, carry water from dugouts, and work in the fields along with their husbands
One of the greatest gifts we can give a mother is the gift of education for her children. Many of these children are the first generation to read and write in English, and each mother has great pride and hope for the future of her family.
In several communities where our Good Shepherd Schools are located, we have begun tailoring classes and economic development programs for the women, where a new confidence is birthed. These centres become safe places for women to share their burdens and have our leaders pray for them and counsel them.
In this newsletter, I wish to introduce you to one of our women’s leaders, Rani, who through her struggles as a girl child now ministers to many hurting and suffering women. Your support and care for the women of India helps entire families.
When Rani’s mother gave birth to her first child, to everyone’s disappointment, it was a girl. When she gave birth to a second child, another girl, the family’s disappointment turned to despair. The second girl’s very existence was such a disgrace that she was never even given a name.
Having two daughters brought so much shame to the family that while their father was away on business, his parents kicked the daughters and their mother out of the home. With no income and no one to turn to, they were forced to build a shelter out of mud and use palm leaves for a roof. Every morning, their mother would rise early to pray for hours on end. When the unnamed daughter would ask her mother what she prayed for, she’d replyied, “I pray for a son.”
Rani knows the suffering of being born a girl in India and has dedicated her life to helping other women who are also facing injustice and abuse.
When their father returned, the extended family begged him to marry another woman so that he could have a son. But he refused. Instead, he built his wife and daughters a good home to live in. This made the extended family despise his daughters even more. Their hatred ran so deep that an aunt even attempted to poison them with deadly mushrooms. Both girls became gravely ill and almost died. It was only after this near-death experience that the unnamed daughter, at age seven, was finally given a name: Rani.
Despite everything, Rani refused to let her gender determine her destiny. She was told that, as a girl, she must stop going to school by grade seven. However, she knew that education could help her break free from the discrimination and disadvantages she faced. So she began working in the fields to pay for her own education. Once she graduated, she learned how to sew and became a tailor to pay her way through university.
Today, Rani has two master’s degrees. She and is a leader in the movement that is bringing empowerment and transformation to Dalit women and works with Dalit Freedom Network. Rani knows the suffering of being born a girl in India and has dedicated her life to helping other women who are also facing injustice and abuse. She walks with these women in their suffering and shares with them the love of her Heavenly Father, a father who knows them by name.
Makenzy is just 11 years old and already passionate about giving back to others. When she was 9 years old, she and her mom, Wendy, visited some of our Good Shepherd Schools to discover more about where their donations were going. Makenzy was riveted by what she saw.
“I want to be able to invite as many kids as possible inside the gates.” —Makenzy
“When I visited the Dalit children, I saw how different the kids were who went to the Good Shepherd Schools. They were happy kids just like me,” said Makenzy. “But when I visited some slums, the kids sat around doing nothing because they couldn’t go to school. Some kids would stand outside the gates of the school and it made me sad that they were left out. I want to be able to invite as many kids as possible inside the gates.”
For Makenzy’s mom, it was incredible to see India through the eyes of her daughter. “It hit home the privilege of equal opportunity for an education,” she said. “I am convinced that sponsoring as many children as we can offers tremendous hope not only to the Dalit children, but their families too. It is an effective way to break the cycle of poverty.”
We are so thankful for Makenzy and Wendy and for all of you who generously donate to bring freedom to the Dalits.
By teaching Dalit women marketable skills, we are providing them with a respectable, stable alternative to their current exploitation. In June of 2016, we were able to launch the a new vocational training centre for Dalit women because of supporters like you.
This new tailoring training centre enrolls 20 women at a time for a six month tailoring course that teaches them the basics of tailoring and mending. Upon graduation, each participant receives a grant to help start their own business. Over a two-year period, this centre will empower and train up to 80 women!
In response to the request of village elders, a goat farm—with appropriate training for women—will also be incorporated into the program to provide milk for families and a regular source of revenue for landless and marginalized families. As you can see, gifts like yours are steadily making an impact on entire villages in India, bringing practical skills to Dalit women and giving the freedom to live full and meaningful lives.
Please give generously to make education and freedom possible for the Dalits in India, especially women, the Dalits of the Dalits. Your contribution will deliver justice and freedom that could only be dreamed of before.