Empowerment: One in a Billion in India
India’s population now exceeds 1.2 billion, and The Salvation Army has long recognized the many obstacles low-income women and their families face there.
Today for example, 9,000 young women and girls are involved in prostitution in a 3-mile radius of Mumbai’s red light district – a situation the women feel powerless to change.
Salvation Army centers in the heart of the red light district offer women a safe alternative to the sex trade. Through skills building, vocational training and income generation, they have an avenue to return to their families, attend school, or learn alternative means of earning a living. Drop-in centers provide the children of sex workers with a safe place to stay, with food and educational activities.
When Aruna’s husband died, she moved to her sister’s home near the red light district. Upon arrival, she was told she would have to be involved in sex work to pay rent for her place in the house. Distraught, Aruna left her sister’s home and found a job and place to stay with The Salvation Army. She has now worked for The Salvation Army for five years, and her daughters have been enrolled in the Salvation Army school.
Elsewhere in India, programs instituted by the India Central Territory and funded by The Salvation Army World Service Office use self-help groups to provide business skills training and loans to start small businesses or pay school tuition – which provides a sense of hope to women in many of the region’s poorest villages.
Until recently, Mariamma joined her husband and two children in the fields each day as an agricultural laborer. Living in a rented thatched house in a poor village, they were vulnerable because of the seasonal nature of their work.
Mariamma joined the self-help group and took out a $16 dollar loan to start a business selling vegetables from street-to-street in her community. Through her profits, she repaid the loan and started a vegetable shop in the market. She now earns approximately $65 per month.
“I am really grateful to The Salvation Army for this help,” she said. “My husband is diabetic and I am able to pay his medical expenses, and I can send my children to school. We are happy now.”
The Salvation Army continues to champion the cause of women like Aruna and Mariamma – to provide the sanctuary, skills, and hope by which they can build the life they want – and to never let each one forget that she is special…that she is in fact one in 1.2 billion.
Read more from the latest annual report of The Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO).