*Navnithas’ parents were so disappointed the day she was born… another girl. She was just 6 when they decided to dedicate her into systemic ritualised abuse. Throughout the colour and noise of the celebration, Navnitha had no idea what was in store…
For over 2,000 years, thousands of girls just like Navnitha have been illegally trafficked into ritual sex slavery. Girls are dedicated to a goddess in a marriage-like ceremony.
They are dedicated and ‘initiated’ without their consent, and usually have no knowledge of what their future will hold. After reaching puberty she becomes the property of the village and can be used by any man, anywhere, anytime; trapped in a life of sexual servitude.
It is estimated that there are over 100,000 such women and girls. Sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS and ill-health are rife; mental health issues and depression are rampant, and dignity is non-existent. They are stigmatised and abused physically, sexually, emotionally, socially and financially. Most are illiterate, struggle with substance abuse and live in extreme poverty.
*Name changed to protect the identity
What we do
We have an active presence in over 270 villages out of approximately 3,000 where it is estimated that the practice occurs. Team members connect with these women, providing healthcare, counselling and vocational training, and empowering them to leave the practice. These women and girls receive health care and support, tailoring training, small business grants, and other means of providing for their families. Self-help groups provide the women with support, while our staff advocate for their rights and protection.
Women have left the practice become Village Leaders, connecting with other abused women and empowering them to find freedom, and preventing dedications of more little girls. In the villages where we have an active presence, dedications are decreasing, and many women are leaving the practice as they discover dignity and hope.
We have a structure in place to address the issue from the bottom up, while providing support from the top down; addressing advocacy, health care, practical support, housing, nutrition, education and economic empowerment.
Village Leaders are women have left the practice. They connect with other women, prevent dedications and protect the most at-risk girls, and take a stand for the abolition of this practice in their village.
Community Health Workers work across two villages, providing antenatal care, hygiene training, immunisations, public health initiatives, HIV and AIDS awareness and co-ordinating medical clinics. They are on the front line of our programme as each one oversees health care in two villages. They are an amazing support to our Village Leaders and receive ongoing training so they can best serve these marginalised people.
District Co-ordinators ensure the functionality and effectiveness of the project in over 270 villages, while the Field Manager oversees the co-ordination of all aspects of the project.
What Can You Do?
Our goal is to expand into more villages: supporting exploited women and protecting vulnerable girls;
ultimately seeing an end of this heinous practice.
1. SUPPORT A VILLAGE LEADER in a village
Just $250 supports a Village Leader in her role for an entire year. Watch the video below to hear how Nagamma escaped an abusive environment and recovered dignity, her life forever changed. Our International Women’s Day campaign each March, is a great opportunity to organise local events to raise funds to support these brave women.
2. SUPPORT A COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKER
A Community Health Worker in one village costs $900 /year. They have basic medical training and a passion for the vulnerable. They provide health care for the girls, women and their communities. Much ill health and up to 80% of deaths of children under 5 are easily preventable. In a society steeped in superstition, where many are illiterate, education about the cause of disease is vital.
3. SUPPORT A VILLAGE
It costs $1,800 to support the entire operations of working in a village for one year, inclusive of personnel, training, resources, and initiatives such as advocating on behalf of these women and girls. You can support a whole village for a year, or a portion of a year. Often families or groups of friends commit to supporting a village for a year.
4. SPONSOR THE CHILD OF one of these women
Children and grandchildren of these women are the most vulnerable and marginalised children of all. Where it is deemed safe for them to remain with their families, we transport these children to a school in a village some distance away, where no-one knows their background. Here they receive quality education in a safe environment.
Monthly sponsorship is $60, and covers tuition, bus maintenance, petrol and the cost of the driver. We invite you to help a vulnerable child begin their journey to freedom.
5. SUPPORT THE Girl's SHELTER
Vulnerable girls like Navnitha, live in our Pratigya home (Pratigya means promise). Here they grow up in a loving and protected environment receiving nutritious food, education, and specialist care to help them heal from the abuse they have invariably suffered.
The shelter can accommodate 100 at-risk girls, and a further 50 abused women stay short-term, receiving specialist healthcare, counselling and skills training.
People can donate regularly to the ongoing operations of the Pratigya shelter home, ensuring a safe haven for vulnerable girls and abused women.
Stories From the Women
Planning for her dedication service began when *Navnitha turned six. One of our social workers approached her parents, explaining the illegality of the system and the cruel consequences of such a dedication. The parents were under tremendous pressure by the local villagers to follow through with the dedication so they requested that their two daughters be…
*Jayamma was 7 when her father told her she was to be dedicated. He could not afford a dowry for her, and he needed someone to look after him in his old age. The solution was to dedicate Jayamma to the temple goddess. The entire village attended the ceremony, yet Jayamma had no idea what was…
We Need your Support
These women have the odds stacked against them from birth, but education and empowerment can restore their dreams and hopes, bringing transformation not only to them but to their families and to entire communities.