(Fotos: BGR und Bodhicitta Foundation)
In 2022, Mitgefühl in Aktion (MiA) has once again supported the work of the Bodhicitta Foundation, an officially recognized charity project established by the Australian nun Ayya Yeshe. This organization helps protect vulnerable girls from disadvantaged families in India, especially those from casteless backgrounds, from poverty, child marriage, and abuse, and provides them with education and vocational training that would otherwise not be accessible for them. We help protect these girls, most of whom were born in slums, from human trafficking and prostitution and from domestic violence. Worldwide, every minute 23 girls under the age of 18 are forced to get married against their will. Educating girls is one of the best things we can do to reduce gender inequality, domestic violence and poverty, and to slow population growth. An educated mother will have fewer children, her children will be better educated themselves, and they are also 50% more likely to survive to adulthood.
As a direct result of poor sanitation, India still has a higher rate of child malnutrition than sub-Saharan Africa. There are still 55 million girls who would like to go to school but cannot, while around 22% of Indian girls under 18 are already married.
BF's home for girls currently provides food, education, and vocational training to 30 girls from disadvantaged and remote locations, particularly from formerly so-called 'untouchable' (Dalit) and smaller tribal communities. In addition to this, these activities offer legal assistance and protection to women experiencing domestic violence.
Buddhist Global Relief and Mitgefühl in Aktion were able to support 3,000 people in 2021 through direct aid in the areas of education, human rights and vocational training. In addition, 8,000 meals per year were served to hungry children.
The number of people we help has increased ,through the training of an additional 150 social workers for our project's girls' homes. These social workers then return to their home villages and set up women's shelters, vocational training centers for women, and study centers for children. Even though Dalits are still the majority of those we serve, the focus of the work has shifted to support women from different castes.
Anjali is one of the many Indian women in India who have suffered from domestic violence. Women are often uneducated and unable to support themselves financially, and therefore dependent on men who often dominate and abuse them.
Like many women, Anjali was brought up to think that a woman should stay with her husband and serve him throughout her life. She confided that her husband destroyed 6 belts when he beat
her. She still does not know why her husband beat her. Then her husband started abusing her and also her 2-year-old child. When I met Anjali, she and her child were very thin and wide-eyed with
fear. Her mother (a seller of vegetables) was kind enough to take her back into the house. This is not usually the case. Large families from lower and middle class backgrounds often cannot afford
to take their daughters back, and divorced women become social outcasts. Anjali lives in her mother's front yard. Her house consists of a 1.5 square meter tin roof and walls made of thin wood
from packaging boxes that connects a fence and the front of the house. We have offered counseling and food to Anjali and sponsored her daughter's school education.
There are many other women too afraid to leave domestic violence situations defined by domestic violence who need a safe place if they are to leave, so that their husbands cannot find them. We need to find work, counseling and protection for these women.
My name is Ayeesha and I am 14 years old. I have 3 other sisters and my father is an alcoholic. Right now he is in the hospital, he can't walk and sometimes he can't remember who I am. He is always fighting with my mother and beating her. We wish the bolts on our door were stronger so we could lock him out. He also beats my sister, she is only 12. One night my father hit my mother and she passed out and we all had to sleep outside.
My father always drank, but he didn't always drink 3 x 100 ml bottles of whiskey a day. He worked as a driver and brought us lollies home and asked us how our day was. But when he drank, he would become aggressive and beat our mother without mercy. I don't know why she stays with him, but if she left, she would have no option but to live on the street.
I think my father wanted sons, so he and my mother had four children. They had hoped one would be a son, but now they have to pay for the wedding of four daughters. I feel bad about this, like I'm a burden. I try to help at home. My mother works 10 hours a day for rich Indians who pay her 5000 rupees a month (around 60 EUR). This is barely enough for food.
My older sister works 8 hours a day, 6 days a week in a shop doing a part-time job for 1200 rupees (less than 15 EUR) a month during her college vacations. My main income comes from selling my father's empty alcohol bottles. My father gives us nothing except his empty bottles. Now my father is really sick in the hospital, so my mother works during the day and sleeps there at night, cooking for him and cleaning him. One day we wanted to celebrate a birthday and my father got drunk. We pushed him into the other room. It was really embarrassing. People don't want to visit our house.
When my father is not in the hospital, he just lies in bed watching TV and bossing me around. Indian women are very faithful to their husbands. They walk around the sacred fire with them seven times. After that, they are supposed to be with their husbands for seven lifetimes. I don't know what bad karma my mother did to get my father as a husband, but I think since she got married, she is in that fire instead of going around it.
She's so thin and tired. She is only 37 years old and was married at 18. My mother has no father or brother to intervene and threaten my father. Our life is very difficult. The Bodhicitta Foundation has offered to help us move away from him, but then who will get the house when he dies? We do not want to move away from our friends, and do not want to have to leave our house. I like to come to the Dharma Center to escape my parents‘ conflict. Sometimes I have even been able to sleep there. I am glad that the Bodhicitta Foundation is helping me go to a good school. I like to study.
Text: BGR and Simpert Würfl