“My husband used to hit me a lot. One day at 3 am he kicked me out of the house with the kids and we slept on the streets” says Usha, a Dalit woman living in Jodhpur, India.
“The next morning I complained to the Trust who then sent some women to go speak to my husband. Since then he stopped hitting me. Since then, there has not been any more violence in the family, he goes to work regularly, brings money at home and takes care of the children too.”
Sambhali Trust, meaning “the rising of the deprived” is a non-profit organization created in 2007, which empowers women and girls in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan. At Sambhali, women of all socio-economic and religious backgrounds are able to come together to promote self-esteem, confidence, and self-expression, all while gaining an education and access to economic independence.
The caste system in India, while officially abolished in 1950, is still very much alive in many parts of the country, including Jodhpur. The caste system is a form of hereditary social stratification based on occupation and status in a hierarchy, privileging those born of a higher class and ensuring those of a lower caste remain oppressed.
Dalits, or “untouchables” is a term used to describe ethnic groups indigenous to India who are excluded from the caste system entirely, as they are considered so low in the social hierarchy as to be “outcastes.” Dalit women not only face discrimination from individuals of higher castes, but also experience prejudice from members of their own community.
Govind Rathore, a member of the upper Rajput caste, witnessed his mother become an outcaste when his father died and she became a widow. After witnessing the degree of oppression that plagued Dalit women especially, he wanted to use his privilege to make a difference. Supported by family and friends, Rathore founded Sambhali Trust in October of 2006 to help empower women and girls facing similar circumstances.
Sambhali runs a number of education and tutoring programs in English and Hindi, promoting literacy, math, and sewing skills. Women and girls attend educational workshops learning about Indian politics, geography, and women’s rights. Sambhali also facilitates scholarships and a micro-loan program for women in the community.
“I have no words to explain how happy I am to be part of the Trust,” said Usha, now a graduate of Sambhali edu-cation program. She first started by visiting the many empowerment centres located around Jodhpur set up by Sambhali. Usha graduated from Sambhali’s 12-month education program and is now employed by the Sambhali Boutique, making clothes and handicrafts. “Since I’ve joined Sambhali's graduate sewing program my children have restarted school and I earn 4-5000 rupees per month selling my crafts.”
In 2018, Sambhali celebrated 30 women graduating from the empowerment programs.
The staff at Sambhali work out of the empowerment centre in Raika Bagh. This is also home to the Sambhali Boutique. When women do not feel safe at home, or have nowhere else to go, they stay at the centre. Right now, there are 15 women living together in the home. To help increase capacity, Sambhali is currently fundraising to open a women’s shelter, which will provide a safe and supportive space for women when they need it most.
PWB is proud to partner with Sambhali Trust as part of our PWB School India workshop. Find out more about the next PWB School India trip, fall 2019.
This article was first published in PWB Magazine #12, on sale now.