INDIA: Ending Slavery

Sunitha is a 26-year-old Indian woman who belongs to the lowest rung of the Dalit Community, the manual scavengers, those who clean human excrement from public latrines. Sunitha’s mother and father are daily wage laborers and have not been able to escape their poverty-stricken existence. She and her parents live in a small hut, along with her two brothers and sister-in-law. Sunitha went to school until seventh grade, but then had to drop out. To try to help her family, she began attending one of OM India’s tailoring schools. She learned how to make Indian Sari dresses. She could not afford a sewing machine on her own, so through OM’s Economic Development Micro-Finance program, she took a loan to buy a sewing machine. She began earning more money through her trade and has already paid back her loans. She is one of the most famous tailors in the area and is helping her family tremendously. She is thankful to the OM staff members for the way that they have helped her, through this effective program, build a new life.

In India, the Dalit people are victims of centuries-long, socially-sanctioned slavery. Numbering 250-300 million, they are those in the Hindu caste system who are designated as “low” or “backward” caste. Consequently, they are shackled to a social and religious system that removes all personal freedom and human dignity. Dalit women are twice oppressed by gender and caste. In India, OM has 50 women’s tailoring training centers serving 1200 women. Once the woman is skilled, she is offered the opportunity for employment, which drastically improves her income, future and the prospects for the next generations. It literally breaks the cycle of poverty and caste-based slavery--one family at a time.