NOT TODAY Movie: Child Trafficking in India

NOT TODAY opens in theatres today. It is a movie about child trafficking and exploitation.  One of its many awards includes “Best Justice Film” from the 2013 Justice Film Festival. As many are now aware, “human trafficking” is the new terminology for modern-day slavery. In any form, slavery condones the buying and selling of human beings. This is a film about India, but it’s also a film about humanity everywhere.

With the financial freedom to travel abroad, the young Caden Welles takes off for an adventure with his friends to Hyderabad, India. What he finds there is not a dream vacation, but a nightmare. Like so many of us who are exposed to the realities of human degradation through culturally embedded caste systems, sexual exploitation, forced labor, and/or child trafficking, he is forever haunted, forever changed.

NOT TODAY is a contemporary coming-of-age story, and through this journey, viewers are afforded terrifying, yet all-too-common examples of modern-day slavery, lined with lessons in courage, understanding, and faith, all wrapped in a rich cinematographic masterpiece.” Dr. Ana Steele, President Dalit Freedom Network USA

Watch the Trailer of NOT TODAY the Movie  

Executive Director, Matthew Cork says, “Dalits are not considered human. They get no education. They are used and abused and have no recourse or avenues toward justice. There is no protection from law enforcement; no access to the courts; no political voice, no hope of upward mobility.”

I know we live in a frenetic fast-paced world that thrives on sound bites and is always pushing toward the next thing, but if you would, re-read that last paragraph. Imagine it was referring to you, or the people you love. 

Cork is asked: “Can one movie change everything in India?” “No. But what if that one movie could open the eyes of millions and challenge them to join in this meaningful fight? There is a longing in the human heart for freedom. It is a universal longing.”

All of NOT TODAY’s partners are currently working to bring awareness, justice, and freedom to enslaved people around the globe.  Partners include A21 Campaign, International Justice Mission, Abolition International, and more. 

My challenge to you: Let’s work together, through the power of one, to begin to change each “no” into a “yes”. Yes, we believe in justice, equal justice for all of humanity. That includes fair laws, access to the courts, and legal protection for every person. Yes, we believe in education, the hope of upward mobility, and freedom from abuse for all. Yes, we believe girls have a right to live, receive education, and to prosper. Yes, we believe in a future hope that is good, the right to our voice, and freedom for all human beings, period.

As the movie byline reads: “None of us are free if one of us is enslaved.”

You may also be interested in:

Dalit Freedom Network: Touching the Untouchable Women of India

Untouchable — National Geographic Magazine  

Visit the website of NOT TODAY: The Movie or Follow on Twitter @NotTodayMovie.

How a Movie Ticket Can Help Save a Child From Slavery by Actor John Schneider

The movie was produced by Friends Church Yorba Linda, a congregation committed to educating the Dalits and ending human trafficking in India. Want to bring Not Today to YOUR City? Bring It!

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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Shadows in the Sun: A Book Celebrating Womanhood

 

It seems impossible that babies are still being killed in the womb, and even after birth, just because they are a specific gender, but it is a reality.  Female infanticide, or “gendercide” is still happening in the 21st century. It is the reason Bangladesh-born author, Rukhsana Hasib, decided to write the book, “Shadows in the Sun”.

From firsthand experience she writes, “Being from an Eastern culture, I am acutely aware of the abuses and oppression of women in Eastern societies, particularly among the poor. The birth of a daughter is still considered a misfortune by a vast number of people.” According to a 2011 report, 50,000 female fetuses are aborted every month in India alone. 

“It’s a reminder of how horrible life still is for many women and why we need to support one another and the freedom of all women to be full human beings” –Reader

In some cultures, the birth of a boy is widely celebrated, while the discovery that a mother is carrying a girl in her womb is not. In fact, it is cause for grave disappointment, shame and even murder. The mindset changes from carrying a baby, to a nameless, faceless, “it”.  A girl.  A thing to be discarded and destroyed, just because of the gender. Countless news reports tell harrowing stories of mothers who throw their baby daughters out of hospital rooms, into rivers, or onto garbage heaps.

While India has outlawed selective abortions of female fetuses, it has not stopped the crime. Females in many parts of the culture are still considered inferior to males, and gendercide continues. A 2012 article by The Economist: The War on Baby Girls: Gendercide states, “for millions of couples, the answer is: abort the daughter, try for a son.”  Worse still, research reveals the belief and practice is not limited to the poor and uneducated, and is found on almost every continent.

“This book will open up controversial discussions in many book clubs about the roles of women in society and the difficult choices they have to make to better the next generation of women” -Reader

Through the story of Shadows in the Sun, author Rukhsana Hasib adds her voice to the millions of women who have stood up and fought for women’s rights, “with the hope that eventually our collective voices will ring loudly enough to be heard in every corner of the world.”  

Many use “selective abortion” to get rid of female babies. Not just out of the womb, but out of the family structure, the society, and their place in the world, literally robbing them from their destiny. Rukhsana Hasib, along with advocates against gendercide look forward to the time when “the birth of a daughter is no longer considered a misfortune, as a mere shadow in the sun, but as valuable as the sun itself, which nurtured the earth like the mother who gave birth and sustained life.”

Long held belief systems are powerful, but not impossible to break through. As with any cultural shift, negatively embedded belief systems must first be dismantled in the mind. Life is a gift to be valued and honored, regardless of gender.

We need to protect, celebrate and empower the next generation of women. The more light that is shed on the issue of gendercide, the less room there will be for evil to propagate in the darkness. 

Author Biography

Rukhsana Hasib came to the United States in 1971, earned an MBA at Rutgers University, and went on to work as a commercial lending officer. She is the author of the novel Shackles of Time and a short story called Redemption of Red, which was published in an anthology of Diaspora writers, poets, and artists in 2011.

More Reading:

All Those Little Faces’: Elizabeth Vargas Explores India’s ‘Gendercide’  

In the third world, unwanted baby girls ‘disappear’. It’s called gendercide. And it’s happening in this country, too  

Follow Rukhsana on Twitter @rukhsanahasib, or on Facebook

Join me at @DestinysWomen on Twitter.

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”
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Dalit Freedom Network: Touching the Untouchable Women of India

Who are the Dalits?  They are known as “untouchables”.  Born into the lowest socio-economic class in India’s oppressive caste-system, these people live under the unrelenting fear of discrimination, dehumanization, segregation, and violence–every day.  Dalit women and children are especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation and human trafficking. 

According to the Dalit Freedom Network (DFN), Dalits are history’s longest standing oppressed people group and the largest numbers of people on earth categorized as victims of modern-day slavery. Dalits are still considered subhuman, contaminating to others, worthy of being outcasted, and untouchable.

DFN represents a vast network of justice-minded, modern-day abolitionists committed to bringing freedom to history’s longest standing oppressed people group.  A group of more than 250 million people–a shocking number estimated at 25 percent of India’s 1.2 billion population.

According to Ana Aspras Steele, President of Dalit Freedom Network USA, “Despite being one of the longest-oppressed groups in human history, the Dalits or ‘untouchables’ of India face a hopeful future in their fight for equal rights”.  That’s because of organizations like DFN, socially and morally responsible advocate networks and individuals that believe that every human being has the right to life, freedom, and dignity. She invites “all justice-minded Americans to join the present ground-swelling, worldwide campaign for Dalit freedom”.

Dalit Freedom Network partners with the Dalits in their quest for freedom, justice, and human dignity by mobilizing human, intellectual, and financial resources -DFN Mission Statement

They are a human rights, non-government organization that partners with the Dalit people in India.  Their goal?  To help end Dalit injustices, such as human trafficking, gender and caste discrimination, child labor–and, to “make slavery history in India”.

How Can You Touch a Dalit Woman or Child? 

These are just some of the very practical, personal and tangible ways you can help a Dalit woman or child this holiday season.  (You can review several more options on the DFN website).

Sewing Maching, Table & Chair – A simple sewing machine, table, and chair will change the lives of many Dalit women. This equipment allows one woman to start her own tailoring business and gradually pay for the machine into a revolving fund so other women may receive a similar opportunity. ($150 suggested price)

Tools & Supplies to Accompany a Sewing Machine – This kit includes basic tailoring tools and cloth for one woman in a tailoring center, enabling her to begin learning and practicing her new trade immediately. ($50 suggested price)

Supplies for a Salon – Dalits are not welcome in upper caste beauty salons because of the stigma of “Untouchability.” DFN’s partners train Dalit women in beauty and hair treatments. The women then receive a set of supplies to start their own home-based salon that can generate income and meet a need in the community. ($25 suggested price)

Free a Dalit Child – This is DFN’s most critical need and the way you can make the most immediate impact.  There are more children in India than any other country in the world. Every day many of them live in acute danger of being trafficked, maimed, or sold into slavery. Learn more about this project.

Holiday Matching Fund Challenge – During this holiday season, you can double your gift of education to unsponsored Dalit children through DFN.  

More Ways to Give: To donate airline miles, stocks or mutual funds, email: accounting@dalitnetwork.org or Support Dalit women through DFN by trading on eBay

DFN’s International President, Dr. Joseph D’souza has written two books: “Dalit Freedom Now and Forever: The Epic Struggle for Dalit Emancipation”, and “On the Side of the Angels: Justice, Human Rights and Kingdom Mission”, and also writes a blog about Seeking to Transform Lives & Communities in India.

Visit the Dalit Freedom Network Website

Additional Reading:

History of the Dalit Freedom Network

Dalit women find their voice through a newspaper – Los Angeles Times

Untouchable – National Geographic Magazine

As promised, I will be highlighting organizations throughout the remainder of the year that offer unique ways to give the gifts of love, joy and hope to women and girls in need. Share the true spirit of Christmas and, spread the love… Tell a friend! 

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

(Photos by the Dalit Freedom Network)

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HopeWares: Combined Hope Makes Women’s Dreams Come True

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

Through Lynda’s creative advocacy, her dream became a tangible reality.  Just one heart, one woman, one vision — and HopeWares was conceived.

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

Additional Reading:

Dalit women find their voice through a newspaper, Los Angeles Times
Untouchable – National Geographic Magazine

To learn more or shop, visit HopeWares online.

© by April McCallum, Destiny’s Women

(Photos provided by HopeWares)

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