Lend a hand of empowerment

When was the last time you saw a beggar ? That may sound like a superfluous question taking into account the poverty one encounters at every corner, but then let me rephrase – when was the last time you really ‘saw’ a beggar and not just looked through them.

Like many people , I too had stopped ‘seeing’ beggars till my son made me painfully aware of them every time a pair of hands extended beseechingly or knocked at the car windows in a traffic signal. While I was at pains to explain to my son, why putting some money in a begging bowl wouldn’t really help as it wouldn’t make the beggar stop begging , it still rankled that I didn’t have too many answers on how we could really help.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

You can give charity, but does your charity have the power to bring about a change.

Now people like you and me can. And its not charity because they don’t need alms. All they want is a little help, a slight nudge from us, in their bid to live their lives with dignity.

‘They’ are Devdasis – Women we relegated to an era gone by and forgot about them. But they continued to live, continued to struggle against an unfair destiny.The Devdasi system was outlawed in 1988, but 250,000 women still continue to be trapped in this system. Girls as young as 5 year old are taken away to be wedded to the temple deity and subjected to lifelong sexual abuse at the hands of higher caste men.Some of them had the grit to break away and are striving to educate their children and break the shackles society has imposed on them. Mahananda is one such woman. An ex-Devdasi, she has fought to survive in a society which looked down upon her and her children.Today, she proudly shows her sewing machine which she uses to run a small tailoring business and dreams of educating her children so as not to let her story repeat through her children.

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It was at an event organized by Indiblogger that I chanced to meet an ex-Devdasi – a woman who had not only broken away from the system but also fought to give other ex-Devdasis a chance to rehabilitate by working with NGOs and a crowd funding platform called Milaap. She spoke in Kannada to an audience which consisted mostly of bloggers. While she elaborated the many reasons women continue to be forced into becoming Devdasis including superstitious beliefs of a bad fate befalling the villagers if the Gods aren’t propitiated, the root cause was still the abject poverty which plague these families. She spoke of tragedies, but her voice carried the conviction of a fighter. They too deserved a chance to live with dignity and for once, we can do something about it.

Crowd funding is the new mantra which has the power to bring about changes – right from startup funding to social upliftment. It works on the premise of small amounts and large volumes. For a country like India, the potential is huge. Milaap is one such crowd funding platform which enables common people to lend money towards social change.You can extend a loan for any amount, starting from Rs.500, to a group of your choice. The purpose of the loan is mentioned like rearing buffaloes or starting a tailoring business and the amount is then repaid over a predetermined period in small installments. You won’t earn any interest in the money you lend through Milaap but the principal is guaranteed. The risk of any defaults is absorbed by Milaap and the NGO.

Giving charity is not so difficult, but giving charity to the right person, the right cause and in the right manner is difficult.And in all probability, if one really identifies the correct prospect, the charity would no longer be charity instead would be an investment.

So this new year, why don’t we stop giving charity and instead make an investment – an investment in people and the power of change.

While this particular event was held to promote the Hope Project which is Milaap’s initiative to help the Devdasi women re-establish their lives, Milaap continues to enable funding for various social ventures in the space of education/training, energy,enterprise development, sanitation and water.

To lend a loan to an ex- Devdasi visit http://www.milaap.org/hope

To check out the other lending options for social change visit http://wwww.milaap.org

Note: Please go through Milaap’s website and read the terms and conditions before making a loan.

References:
1.Watch Mahananda’s story : http://www.youtube.come/watch?v=k026QTnKlqQ
2.http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/jan/21/devadasi-india-sex-work-religion
3.http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/Spring02/Chattaraj/plight.html
4.http://hogfindia.wordpress.com/2013/05/26/devadasi-sexual-exploitation-of-girls-in-the-name-of-religion/

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12 thoughts on “Lend a hand of empowerment

  1. That opening paragraph was great and drew me in to the rest of a most evocative piece, Ash! Applause to the people who fight against the bars that Society has tried to impose on them. Will do the necessary for Milaap.

  2. I missed the meet but subsequently found out a lot about Milaap through blog posts. I have also contributed to the noble cause of toilets for rural women through Milaap. Nice post and thanks for spreading the word.

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