Have you ever come across the term ‘devadasi’? It’s a Hindi word which literally translates to ‘servant of god’. In early days, select girls, as young as 5, were chosen to “marry” the temple goddess. This meant the girls couldn’t marry anybody else and had to serve the temple all their lives. In time, powerful men started misusing them for their carnal pleasures and these girls, who were revered as god’s servants, were branded prostitutes. Over the years many women and girls have been sold as devadasis (sex slaves) for money. Since the 80’s, the practice has been banned in India. But when a country’s population is over a billion, many malpractices go undetected, especially in remote villages.
Welcome to Kappalaguddi. A small hamlet in the district of Belgaum in north Karnataka. Our story is of a seamstress named Mahananda. When she was 16 years of age, Mahananda’s mother fell seriously ill and she had no money for treatment. So she turned to her uncles for aid. As any good relative would, they paid for her mother’s treatment. But what happened next was both shocking and disturbing. In order to recoup the money, her uncles sold Mahananda as a devadasi.
Powerless and friendless, Mahananda decided to do her master’s biddings. A few months later she fell really ill and was unable to work. Reports from the hospital she visited declared that she was with child. The Pregnant woman begged for her child’s life and she was set free by her owner.
It was after this that life’s trial started for Mahananda. To the rest of the world she was a prostitute, a whore. This made it difficult for her to find a job, and feed herself and her child. It was during this period that she met Sitava. A former devadasi and an activist who helps women like herself get back on their feet.
Sitava aided Mahananda in securing a micro-loan from an online crowdfunding site which helped set up her own sewing business. Today Mahananda is able to provide a better life and education to her children.
This is the story of just one such person who has been able to make a better living through crowdfunding. These days, it is difficult for people from less privileged backgrounds to secure a loan, even from government run banks. Crowdfunding has a come as boon to many of them. The loans these platforms provide are collateral free and have low interest. It is aimed at eradicating poverty completely from this country. Crowdsourcing is a gift of giving. Companies like Milaap, Rang De and Faircent are among such organizations which are helping develop India, one step at a time.