Devadasi Rehabilitation Project
Devadasi system still haunts the victimized women of North Karnataka. According to the government the system does not exist at present. But this is far from the truth. The fact is that some of the identified Devadasis are still young and it raises a lot of doubts about the complete abolition of such practice. The rehabilitation of the Devadasi women and their children is a big concern. They are doubly victimized in the society. In the first place they are sexually abused in the name of religion. Secondly, they are discriminated in the society since they are devadasis. The possibilities of the daughters of Devadasis getting into commercial sex are quite high. This phenomenon is related HIV and AIDS. Unprotected sexual intercourse is quite common. This is one of the main reasons for the spread of HIV in the region.
The rehabilitation of the Devadasi women’s children, especially girls is the need of the hour. They need to be removed from their oppressive cultural context and have to be educated and thus empowered. Their self-dignity is low. They also suffer with inadequate identity. That makes their life even more difficult. The cultural oppression is quite high. It takes a long time to come out of this stigmatic condition.
Economic empowerment is a key factor. It should be combined with emotional rehabilitation and personality formation. A careful monitored accompaniment is very much required during the rehabilitation program. Programs like counseling, personality development skills, leadership skills, etc. should be part of the rehabilitation process. We need to provide them with the skills of self employment. We should equip them to carry out part time employment so that they are made self-reliant.
North Karnataka faces another physiological problem. People in the rural areas find no jobs other than the monsoon season. They get the work in the fields only for 3-4 months. After that they are forced to migrate to the neighbouring states to find adequate jobs. This season migration invites many problems. When the elders migrate they take their children along with them depriving them of their primary education. Secondly, a good number of women end up in commercial sex. It is very difficult to assess the exact number of such cases.
Prevention is better than cure. We need to have mass education to spread awareness of such evil practices in society. The oppressors should be made aware through various means. Children in the school should be educated about this issue. A cultural transformation of the general public is very essential. A religious purification should be part of this holistic change.
Our intervention is limited to two pockets of Bijapur district, namely Nidgundi and Kakandki. The daughters of the Devadasis have been helped with scholarships to pursue their studies in school, college, secretarial courses, computer courses and nursing. They have been given training programs on personality development and leadership skills. We are trying as much as possible to accommodate Devadasi children in our hostel, Navachetana, so that they are accompanied and given a holistic education and formation. Devadasi women and their daughters have been given tailoring skills. The self-help groups of Devadasis is being formed and they have availed the loans from the banks to carry out self-employment. The Devadasi women are also organized to avail the government schemes like pension, housing, etc. Most times they do not get these schemes because of corrupt officials and agents.
Our intervention in the field of education of girls of Devadasis is doing well. Some of them are working as nurses, teachers and clerks. Many girl children are in our hostel. Some are pursuing their nursing, college studies and technical education. This will definitely help to break the cycle of oppression. We have to give them career guidance and place them in a good working place.
We need to reach out to many more to make a collective impact through our intervention. It should ignite change and spread awareness in the whole region. Our programs should aim at such holistic changes in the region.