"I became a Jogini when I was a child", began Krishamma*. "I cannot remember exactly how many years ago or how old I was but I do know that I was very young. It was my parents who made the decision for me to become a Jogini. This was because I am their only child and they do not have a son to become heir to the household. By marrying me to the goddess they made sure that I am unable to be married into another family and so I’ll always be part of their household."
Soon after becoming a Jogini, Krishamma found work in the fields as a day labourer. Joginis often have to supplement their meagre income from performing temple duties, so they are desperate for any work they can get. Casual agricultural labour is fairly common, but it is hard work in baking heat and is very dependent on the weather. In this drought area it means that the number of days work can be very limited.
Krishamma was fortunate enough to be paid just enough for her two eldest children to attend the local village school. Although standards are often not very high in village schools, at least they would be getting some education. They studied until 7th Standard (12 years old), but then the money ran out, and Krishamma faced difficult decisions if the family was to survive.
Dalit Freedom Network’s Indian colleagues who were working in the area got to know Krishamma. With their help, the two girls were offered places in the Pratigya children’s shelter. If they did not have this opportunity, one of them at least, would be at high risk of being forced into following their mother into the Jogini practice of ritual sex slavery. Instead they are in a safe and caring environment, with access to quality education, healthcare and counselling.
Krishamma continues her story, “Not long after that, I received a LAMP grant from OMIF and was able to start up a small business. I used to sell vegetables but now I sell whatever works best, especially at the festivals. I am able to choose products which I think will have a high demand – at the moment I am only selling watermelons. I think carefully about my business and when I decide to change the product I will see it through to the end. I would definitely say that I am not doing this job just for the financial profit. I started this thinking that even ten rupees would be good for me to make through the stall.
“Doing this business has helped me in many ways and I am happy with what I am doing, really happy. OMIF have helped a lot of Joginis to start businesses and they have given us confidence so that we are able to stay upbeat even in the face of adversity. OMIF has been like a Good Samaritan to us and have looked after us when no-one else would, and though my family still have their needs, we are at least able to live without asking for handouts from anyone, not even asking for ten rupees.”
Dalit Freedom Network UK supports OMIF’s economic empowerment programme among the Joginis, helping to fund LAMP grants. DFN also supports the Pratigya Children’s Shelter. You can enable these programmes to help more women like Krishamma and their daughters through donating to our Free A Woman fund. Click on the Donate button now!