Wednesday, January 27, 2010

True stories from the Karuna Trust: Sanjivani Pawar

The FWBO’s Karuna Trust sends over £1million/year to a wide range of Dharma and social projects across India, most (but not all) to the new Buddhists, also known as the Dalits, or ‘Oppressed’. India as a whole may be industrialising fast, but life remains very raw indeed for the vast numbers of Indian poor and ‘low-caste’ people.

Andrea McCaghy, Karuna's press officer, sends us this account of one of Karuna's beneficiaries - one of hundreds of true stories heard by Karuna staff during the course of their work. She says -

Sanjivani Pawar’s story: A widow breaks free from the prisons of caste and gender prejudice to become a role model for others.

“Others should not suffer as I did and I want to help as many people as possible. I’m not going to fear anyone ever again.”

Today, Sanjivani Pawar is a leader of Ghodkar Rajouri village in Maharastra, but 16 years ago things were very different. When her husband died she was left with two small children, Jyoti and Rakesh, and little means of raising them.

Traditionally, an Indian woman loses her power as a wife and mother if her husband dies. This is one way that Indian caste society subdues women to maintain the caste status quo. A widow must stay at home and rely on the goodwill of her husband’s family. Her home, often nothing more than a mud hut ,can become a prison.

But Sanjivani wanted to work her land to get her children educated. ‘Land is important; it is more than growing food to raise my family. It takes me forward, to own something.’

But my community, and my family, said, “You are a widow, why are you going to farm, why are you trying to educate your children?”

And there was worse. ‘As I was a young widow there was pressure from men, demanding sex. They said: “We will make your life easier if you do this. “ That was horrible. I could not go out and work my land.’

Sanjivani made a friend who would change her life. Manisha Tokale and her husband Ashok run Savitribai Phule Mahila Mandal (SPMM), sponsored by Karuna. The project trains and supports community leaders in villages around the town of Beed in central Maharastra, raising awareness of rights, setting up self help savings groups, and empowering women to take charge of their lives.

Could you tell Sanjivani’s story to a Karuna supporter?

You can help give her and the many millions of Dalits in South Asia who suffer from caste-based discrimination a voice by giving your time and helping out on a Karuna telephone fundraising campaign.

Karuna Telephone Fundraising Campaigns
Led by Jo Goldsmid, an experienced and skilled fundraising trainer.

Telephone fundraisers are needed for our Spring 2010 campaign 19th April – 28th May

Phone campaigns run for 6 weeks and are non-residential. You will be working as part of a Buddhist team based in the Karuna office in London. Financial support is offered. We will be phoning existing supporters to communicate the benefits of Karuna’s work in South Asia with a view to them increasing their regular donation.

To find out more:

Contact Jo Goldsmid
Phone 0207 697 3026

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