Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Hope 2014.

Recently i went to a blogger meet and there each one of was asked to introduced ourselves and speak about 1 word that would be the word for us in 2014.
 of course i was totally caught unaware that we had to do so until i noticed all the other before speaking on it, and instead of preparing myself on a speech i was fervently praying i would not have to speak out. #feeling shy. Turns out this time Indiblogger had decided that everyone deserves a chance to speak out.... o_O and i had to take the microphone and do the dreaded thing. I sprouted some nonsense feeling my entire face go red...with my word being err.... "faith" i think.. LOLOL
i took off the banner that was opposite me. It was the word that appealed to me most.

The Indiblogger meet was in conjunction with Milaap a #HopeProject initiative as part of #Indichange. Milaap in an organization that i knew about, in fact it was a organization whose website i had browsed through in my search for doing some good deeds. So what is Milaap?? It is micro-financing through crowd-funding with a philanthropy bend. Is your curiosity piqued too?? Allow me to break it into 3 parts for you:

Micro-financing in the most basic sense means financial transactions of a small nature, and is ususally catered to people who traditionally might not be able to get loans from established banks or financial organization. Micro-fiancing serves the need of the specrtram of society that require loans but does not have collateral to guarantee the loan amount. These are the people from low income groups, eg, fruit seller selling on the pavement, the rag picker, the little education/jobless mass who desires to improve their lot in life but need a little assistance.

Crowdfunding is an easy enough concept to understand as well. As per wiki, it "is the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money." What is so great about crowd-funding is that each individual is a change-maker, an essential clog in the system towards raising the money for the cause that they believe in, giving them the freedom of not only selecting and promoting the idea/group but also gives them ownership of the success of another initiative as an investor. Alot like penny investing but as a collective effort.

Philanthropy. As per the Oxford dictionary the definition of philanthropy is"the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes". It is something inside of you. That willingness and desire to help others without any benefit to you other than 1.the good feeling you get, 2.Karma. :D Think of all the donations of small change that you might have made. the 100rs for the various orphanages, the 50rs towards the church kitty or donation box at the temple or even that 10rs to that old man with no limbs on the train platform. you have given just a bit but collectively you might have donated over rs10,000 or rs.100,000 depending on your age and donation amount with complete assurance that the money is not going to be returned to you by the recipients.

Now what Milaap offers in the 3-in-1 package of Micro-financing, crowd-funding with  philanthropy and but the money instead will be returned back over a duration (there is always that small risk that it may not be... o_O but since their repayment rate is 100% be optimistic). Read the following taken off their site.


Well that sums up the work of Milaap in an easy to understand pictorial manner. Since there are numerous people who wish to take a loan what cause would have most impact?? A student wishing to take a course in Java, a bunch of housewife wanting to expand their piggery or how about helping a Devadasis leave behind their cultural profession and live a respectable life?? Well this was what the meet all about. A special Milaap - Asset India - Indichange project of raising awareness and helping Devadasis. To curb traffing of women into an industry where females- young and old are explotied.

Devadasi. Ever heard of this before?? I have. Unfortunately it was through this video.
Sick?? Yea, that was what i felt when i first saw this video some years back. This documentary (is it even a documentary??) video tends to sensationalize a lot of over the top stuffs like the brothel madam, the transgender prostitute but the fact of the matter is. This is what the World know of Indian sex workers. That they are rudly referred to as "religious hookers" or more kindly as "servant of Gods".  
Servant of God...?? how?? Because it supposedly started off with ladies who danced at rituals for the Gods in the temple and chose to dedicate their entire lifespan to worshiping the deity. These were no simple dancers, they were professional experts in various classical dance like the Bharatanatya, Odissi as well other classical artistic Indian arts, enjoying high status in society as dance and music were an essential part of worship. A living "Apsara" or celestial nymph. Married to the Goddess Yellamma or other deity, she could not marry a mortal man yet could have a benefactor who frees her from domesticity, giving her the freedom to hone her skills in artistic endeavors and serve the Goddess.
These living temple dancers were frequently invited in the courts of the erwest of Kings and danced not in the name of rituals and prayers but for entertainment for the King and his cronies amusement and carnal greed. From King's court, it became a fashion for wealthy zamindars (landlords) to emulated the practice of keeping a devadasi or two. The trend peculated down to the masses helped along with the arrival of the British Raj who not only outlawed the Devadasi practice but also inadvertently helped spread it as the once cherished temple dancers with rich patons were not only forced out into the streets but began walking the pavements, desperate to earn their living the only way they knew. A common Prostitute, married to the the Goddness Yellamma the red and white beads that they were as visible identifying marker. The only traditional alternative means of livelihood for them was a begging bowl that was given to them at the time of their dedication ceremony.
The practice is still strongly followed and flourishes under the carpet, post the outlaw, mostly in South India.  But the religious significance is just a facade. "Rituals and dedication ceremonies continue, very often in secret, and young girls continue to be violated on the basis of tradition, economic need and the misuse of the caste hierarchy."1

Given a choice, there is very few devadasi who would actually like to continue this way of life. Being a prostitute comes with not only serious health hazards but also social stigma that affect them and their offspring. The economic condition which made them a devadasi may not improved at all, as pimps, brothels madams and goons force them to shell out their share. Even if the devadasi leaves the profession the social stigma prevents them and their children from getting any other job, even small manual work out in fields or sweeping the roads.
Deep rooted cultural traditional of dedicating at least 1 daughter from each generation means that girls as young as 11yrs/ 12 yrs who have just started their puberty are made to become a devadasi, and their virginity action off to the highest bidder. Then there is also the crazy idea accepted by the rural community that whims of Mother Nature such as rains being late, or too much thunderstorm are because the Gods are angry with them and punishing them, and the only way to appease the deity would be dedicating the girls as their servants (of God). Having matted hair or even dandruff marks out a girl for to be devadasi as well.
In Karnataka alone, there are 48,000 devadasi. 48,000 families with 2-3 generation depending on the livelihood of their devadasi mother/sister/daughter.  Blind belief, traditions, financial reasons are all factors that encouraged people to exploit these rural ladies, most of which have little or zero formal education. There are numerous organization including the government helping them but there is a long way to go before devadasi system is truly abolished in reality. Milaap is not giving out handouts. There are giving a helping hand of a loan to those truly willing,wanting to improve their lot in life. Milaap give them cash that they expect to be returned back, giving them the vote of confidence and dignity that yes, Milaap believes in them to make their small business idea a success. And there have been many success stories.

Mahananda owns a thriving tailor shop with 4 seamstress under her. Her shop is located near her home and with the money she is earning, she can now afford to send her children to school and at the same time ensure that they have healthy food to eat. This was not always the case. There was a time when she was young child running around barefoot playing the dust with joy and happiness as only children are capable of. Her only parent, her mother became sick. Instead of helping his blood and kin, her maternal uncle advised her mother to dedicate Mahananda to the Goddness Yellamma. Doing so would appease the Goddess and improve her health and at the same time bring in some income to help out with the family expenses, forgetting to mention his own profits. In a covert ceremony, Mahananda was dedicated to the Goddess, a simple necklace of red & white bead tied by an elder Devadasi, given a begging bowl and forever marked out as a servant of God. To worship Yellamma, to never marry a man, to beg on the streets with her arms reached out for alms or to become a sex worker. Her virginity was sold off like a can of tuna to the highest bidder, and her first sexual encounter was of being stripped off and raped by a men more than twice her age. She was just 12 years old then. While other prostitute might work during the night, she had no option, she was a devadasi working 24/7. She works when a patron decides he want to couple in the small 1 room hut that she calls home, sending her children outside to wait while she's with him. Days turn to night, day after day, then months and years.. her belly swollen up with seeds from customers. Her daughters  destined to a Devadasi. Just like their mother- Mahananada, and their grandmother. Till Milaap came. And gave her a loan to buy a simple sewing machine. With that single sewing machine, Mahananda has come across a long way. Now she is not only a successful independent entrepreneur but also a role model to others in her community.

 Milaap is not a one man army giving out handouts. It is simply a  facilitator, connecting lenders such as you and me, those willing to lend (it could be any amount) upwards from Rs.500/- So if ever in your heart, you have ever wanted to help out the less fortunate but perhaps had no idea how to start off, visit Milaap #Hopeproject. 

This year in the first month of 2014. Give some hope to those that need it.  After all, you are simply lending the money. Better to lend it for a good cause then using it to buy extra bottle of beer or waste it on movie ticket. Wait!! You can still buy that bottle of beer or watch the movie, only a little delayed.

I am a change maker, ARE YOU??

Ps: Mahananada is even a model!!

Pps: Did you know that the practice of keeping a Devadasi was once very common in South India??  Or that a Tanjore Temple had up to 400 Decadasi in their roll pay each receiving her rations and a small patch of land from the royal family.  Or that the famous Jagannath Temple in Puri has the oldest working Devadasis?

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