Free a Woman

For over 2,000 years, thousands of girls have been illegally forced into ritual sex slavery. Girls are dedicated to the goddess Yellamma in a marriage-like ceremony and thereafter known as Joginis.
They are dedicated and ‘initiated’ without their consent, and usually have no knowledge of what becoming a Jogini will involve. 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 Joginis. 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 and financially. Most are illiterate, struggle with substance abuse and live in extreme poverty.

Watch the video below to hear about Nagamma, one of the many women whose life was changed and brought out of an abusive and threatening environment.

Jayamma’s Story

Jayamma* was 7 when her father told her she was to be a Jogini. 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 in store.
When she reached puberty, Jayamma found herself trapped in a horrendous cycle of systemic sexual abuse.
By the time Jayamma was thirteen years she was pregnant, but as she had been used by most of the men in her village she had no idea of the father’s identity.
In her 20s, Jayamma became sick, and as she approached thirty her health declined. Her uncle had died from AIDS, and had ‘used’ Jayamma for many years. Increasingly unhealthy and feeling worthless, life became unbearable.
We met Jayamma through our Prevention and Awareness Programme, helping her to understand her rights and entitlements, and arranged an HIV test where she was diagnosed as HIV positive. Our team helped her access treatment and provided tailoring training to enable her to earn a living.
It is early days, but Jayamma’s life is beginning to change for the better.

What we do:

We are currently active in 253 villages out of approximately 3,000 where the practice occurs.

Our staff connect with Joginis, providing healthcare, counselling and vocational training, and empowering them to leave the practice. Self-help groups provide the women with the support that they need.

Former Joginis become Jogini Village Leaders – advocating for the end of the practice, introducing practicing Joginis to our programme, and preventing further dedications.

In the villages where we are active we are seeing dedications decrease, and Joginis leaving the practice as they discover dignity and hope.

Jogini Village Leaders are former Joginis who live in a village and are our eyes and ears. They connect with other Joginis, prevent dedications and protect the most at-risk girls, and advocate for the abolition of the Jogini system in their village, and pursuing rights for these women and children.
Community Health Workers provide antenatal care, hygiene training, immunisations, public health initiatives, HIV and AIDS awareness and co-ordinate medical clinics.
They are on the front line of our programme as each one oversees the health work in two villages.
They are an amazing support to our Jogini Village Leaders and receive ongoing training so they can best serve these marginalised people.

Mandal Co-ordinators oversee 10 villages, providing support and advocating at regional levels, and providing a support structure for vulnerable women. 

District Co-ordinators ensure the functionality and effectiveness of the project in 60 villages, while the Field Manager oversees the co-ordination of all aspects of the project.

Joginis are tested for HIV/AIDs receive and provided with ARVs. They receive tailoring training, small business grants, buffaloes and other means of providing for their families.

What Can You Do?

We invite you to partner with us.

It costs just $1,600 to support the entire structure in each village for one year. You can support an entire village, or part of one, or maybe your church, youth group, school or other group could support a village for a year. E: [email protected] for information. 
 Our goal is to expand into more and more villages,
ultimately seeing an end of this heinous practice.

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Navnitha’s Story:

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 taken to a safe place. Our shelter became a home and the safe place for Navnitha and her sister.
When Navnitha first arrived, she had recurring nightmares – nightmares of evil people surrounding her and forcing her to do things that she was terrified of. She would wake in the middle of the night screaming for help. The housemother would embrace the trembling child and assure her that she was safe.
Five years have gone by since Navnitha came to the shelter. 
Navnitha and her sister settled well into a Good Shepherd School, has loving friends and enjoys sports and laughter.  She loves to dance and has performed in front of her whole school.
Navnitha still has dreams. But now her dreams are of a normal family life, a hopeful future and a career as a teacher!
Sadly there are thousands of others just like Navnitha who are in desperate need of a safe home.
There is an urgent need for a place that provides protection and a safe home for these girls.
Without intervention, many of these vulnerable girls will almost certainly be sold into the sex market.
* In order to protect the individual we have changed the girl’s names and used a representative image.