Inspiration for project dignity
A message from Shobha
This project is especially close to my heart. When I was 22 years old, I received a phone call from my sister informing me that my brother-in-law had been diagnosed with cancer. The prognosis wasn’t good and there was nothing they could do. It wasn’t even one week after his death that all the villagers began a push to run her out of the village. Not only had she taken on the role of a cursed woman, they were now vying for my brother-in-law’s property and attempting to leave her with nothing. Considering the abuse, my sister was ready to forfeit what belonged to her and give the villagers what they wanted. I knew, however, if she did that, she would have nothing…nothing for herself…nothing for her kids, where would they go? I encouraged her to stay and fight for what belonged to her, to hold fast to her principals and to stand for what was right. In that time, she encountered terrible abuses. Men would throw stones at her; people would invent rumors of affairs to tarnish her reputation. The shame was unimaginable. Despite the insurmountable obstacles we continued to fight for her rights and for the future of her children. I am happy to say that she is now the proud owner of her own property, a property that cannot be taken away, a property where she can’t be evicted based on archaic ideas and lies, a property that she can hand down to her children. What a victory!
As wonderful as it is to own your own home, free of the threat of eviction, that was only half the battle. My sister still found herself on her own with no income and children to provide for. Through this whole process I prayed and sought the Lord as to how she might be able to earn money toward monthly expenses and education while also caring for her children and maintaining the home. That is when Project Dignity was born. By investing in a cow, my sister was able to earn income sufficient enough to not only pay the bills, but also to pay for her children’s’ education, a luxury that many Indian village children are never afforded. Rather than being forced into child labor and premature responsibilities, they will be left with the opportunity to be children, studying and playing like their peers. As I write this, it has been three year since my brother-in-law passed away and the changes I have seen are tremendous. My sister regularly says, “I’m sure your God lives because I prayed to many, but none answered me except yours and He sent you to me.” Slowly I am sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with her and her children. I have never seen her happier and the joy I see exuding from her only serves to remind me just how much the Lord cares for widows and orphans. It was a privilege to get to witness the hand of God in every good thing that happened to my sister and it was catalyst that motivated me to ensure that others will experience the same.
Previous Work & Testimony
Ravi initiated the first work among widows by training 862 widows with sewing skills and placed in employment in garment factories to making clothing.Once it was known they were widows most of them lost their jobs. After this he sought the Lord for direction, the Lord gave him a crazy idea. The God idea to meet the need employed women through incense making. It is crazy, because it is sold to Hindus, and used for idol worship in homes and temples. But God had a good plan in using incense for His purpose.The women would gather to make incense, in this time they would divide their time with prayer and making incense, with the intent that it would impact the people that they were selling it to. Reports started to come to the widows that the people who were using the incense were experiencing strange things. They said that the gods and pictures of their gods were falling off the shelves and the walls. People reported seeing white figures running around in the home (otherwise knows as angels). The people found that manifestations of peace and miracles accompanied the presence of the white figures. Headaches disappeared, cancer left, household member gained employment, and there was even a man who had hair grow back. The community members began to realize these changes came to the home as a result of the women praying over the incense. When the widows were approached, the women would share the good news of the gospel and many got saved. There was a church established in this place that is still strong today.
The Widow's Curse
Historically, a widow “is forever burdened with the misfortune of having outlived her husband, she is ‘physically alive but socially dead”. Traditionally, these women were burned after their husband’s passing in a practice known as “sati”. This has been illegal for several decades, and even though India’s widows don’t die a physical death, in modern practice these women are treated as though they are dead to the world. The social belief that the woman is a curse and that she was responsible for her husband’s death is still held in many communities. They believe their husbands wouldn’t have died if it hadn’t been for something these women did or said or thought and therefore it is a punishment from the gods.
Widows are also abandoned by family and seen as nothing but a burden since they bring no economic value. In view of the “cursed” stigma, their families and even their own children turn them out. This abandonment makes them vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Young widows are especially vulnerable to sexual harassment, rape, and even being forced into prostitution to support their children.
Aside from guidance with the milking business, a widow is provided with emotional and spiritual support. She trained to walk in the freedom Christ has offered her, removing the curse culture says she is, to know her identity as royalty. Not only is a life transformed, the future of widow’s children, but is also bring about true long lasting transformation.
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