Recently, my phone beeped and a photo came through of my sister in law’s beautiful Christmas – themed handicrafts – a gorgeous lemon myrtle wreath and some dehydrated sliced oranges baked to a golden glow. It brought a smile. How exciting to be approaching the Christmas season, a much-needed break from a year that has been overwhelming, to say the least.

Yet as I smiled at that picture, I couldn’t help but think of those who don’t get the same luxury of making Christmas crafts for fun. I thought of Satya*, a beautiful girl in India who was dedicated as a jogini when she was 11-years-old. A ‘jogini’ is the name under which a young girl is forced into ritual sex slavery in southern India. It is an illegal system that sees thousands of girls and women from low caste, impoverished backgrounds ‘married to the goddess’ and condemned to a lifetime of abuse.

DFN Sight 2

 DFN aims to empower poor and marginalised people in India economically and socially. PICTURE: Supplied.

Satya’s baby brother, the only boy among four girls, had died at three-months-old, and someone in the village told her father that the gods were angry with the family and that the only way to appease them was to dedicate Satya as a jogini. 

She worked for many years, serving up to 10 men a day, initially at the temple, and later at her old shack in the village. Satya hated her work but she was trapped in this life, as no-one would give her any other work due to her reputation. She had no other way of feeding and clothing her three children, who she conceived in the course of her work.

"In rural India, the stories of the poor and marginalised are heart-wrenching. In addition to the deep personal sufferings that women like Satya face, a strict and sudden lockdown this year due to COVID-19 has caused millions to lose their jobs, forcing further entrenched poverty, abuse and trafficking."

In rural India, the stories of the poor and marginalised are heart-wrenching. In addition to the deep personal sufferings that women like Satya face, a strict and sudden lockdown this year due to COVID-19 has caused millions to lose their jobs, forcing further entrenched poverty, abuse and trafficking.

Fuelled by God’s heart for the marginalised, the Dignity Freedom Network assists marginalised communities, providing hope and dignity through education, healthcare and economic empowerment. One of DFN’s highest mandates is to expose and eradicate the illegal system that sees thousands of girls and women like Satya from low caste, impoverished backgrounds condemned to a lifetime of abuse.

A D V E R T I S E M E N T


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In Satya’s case, one of the DFN team heard her story and intervened to provide medical support, training and lasting hope. Today, Satya’s life has been turned around and she has big dreams for her children. 

More broadly, the DFN team on the ground were well-positioned to respond to this year’s turn of events, expanding their health focus so vulnerable people had access to COVID-19 information and healthcare, including 20 tele-health clinics. 

Jogini Village Leaders tracked down girls reported ‘missing’ and those destined for dedications and child-bride marriages, intervening with authorities to protect them. Food packs and nutritional supplements were distributed to thousands of impoverished families fearing starvation, boosting their immune system.

While our year has been significantly disrupted, it is nothing compared to what our brothers and sisters in India have faced. And when I think about lemon myrtle wreaths and baked oranges this Christmas, I am blessed by and grateful for the work that DFN continues to do to reach the most marginalised people with Jesus’ love, offering the opportunity for those with many untold stories to also enjoy making Christmas handicrafts.

We can all contribute to changing lives by choosing to purchase a gift this season that has lasting impact, such as one from DFN’s Christmas Appeal. 

For information about DFN’s work and Christmas Appeal, visit dfn.org.au/christmas, follow on Facebookemail [email protected] or phone 1800 949 774.

* Name changed to protect identity

Su Weber is a volunteer with the Dignity Freedom Network.