What is Hope? For the Dalit women of India, it means the possibility of expectations, desires and dreams fulfilled.
The word “Dalit” means oppressed. For the many desperate women who have lived under the crushing oppression of the Hindu caste system for over three thousand years, it also means no hope.
“Dalit women say they can be their own worst enemies given that caste distinctions are ingrained from birth. Then there’s the prevalent belief that individuals somehow deserve their fate because of good or bad karma carrying over from the last life.” –Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times
Hurting Hearts & Combined Hope
After the tragic death of her daughter Anna, an Australian woman named Lynda Disher took a trip to India where she discovered “the horrific injustices that we as women here, rarely have to confront.”
“Anna had a passion to help the poor and bring joy to their lives. Like many young girls she struggled with being accepted by her peer groups but wrote in her diary that Jesus made her unique and she wanted others to know and embrace their uniqueness.” –Lynda Disher, HopeWares
She was challenged to make a difference. Fueled by her own grief, she connected with the grief and crippling oppression of the women she met. Woman to woman, hearts were united around a shared need for hope and the promise of a better tomorrow.
These women did not want to live on handouts though, they wanted to make a difference for themselves and for their children—with their own hands, minds and ingenuity. That trip changed not only her life, but the lives of countless Dalit women.
HopeWares is Born
Lynda observed that simply handing out money was not the solution. They needed more than money. They needed an opportunity to become educated and to learn skills that would pave the way to sustaining their families not to mention, freeing them from the bondages that had kept them down for thousands of years. HopeWares represented a light in their darkness, a flicker of hope.
“I don’t think I did anything wrong in my last life, I’m a human.” –Dalit Woman
The Solution — Sewing & Reaping
Working in partnership with Light Home, a home for children in Andhra Pradesh, HopeWares provides training in sewing and embroidery. At the end of the training program, the women receive a brand new treddle sewing machine. It is wonderful to imagine that something as simple as a sewing machine can symbolize freedom for a woman across the world, but it does!
“I have gained skills in tailoring, embroidery, and knitting and above all I have gained confidence in my future.” –Dalit Woman
By creating colorful handbags, scarves, ottomans and home décor, the women are able to tend to their children and provide for their families. The profits from the goods (mostly designed by Lynda) and sold on the HopeWares website provide sewing machines and fund training schools that teach these rural women how to sew, thus, their tagline and purpose: You buy, we give.
Through her own grief, loss and sense of hopelessness, Lynda said yes to the call of her dream. And by saying yes to her dream, she gave hope by lighting the torch of the Dalit women’s dreams in India. Together with their combined hopes to make a difference for a better tomorrow–to raise the bar for the women so locked down by this ancient caste system they were prisoners of–their dreams really did come true.
A Brighter Future for the Next Generation
Today, there are up to an estimated 300 million people classified as Dalits, or “untouchables”, living in India. They are dehumanized, segregated. marginalized and suffer discrimination in education, employment, and health care. On top of that, Dalit women rank even lower than men. While the younger generation of Dalits have begun to stand up and plan for their future rights, they are still referred to as “untouchables.”
Prejudice defines their lives… “Untouchables are shunned, insulted, banned from temples and higher caste homes, made to eat and drink from separate utensils in public places, and, in extreme but not uncommon cases, are raped, burned, lynched, and gunned down.” –National Geographic Magazine
How would it feel if your occupation or status in life were predetermined from birth? Mother Theresa said, “If I look at the mass I will never act.” And, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” If we can light the candle of just one person, we have made a difference, we have ignited hope.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12
To learn more or shop, visit HopeWares online.
© by April McCallum, Destiny’s Women