Empowering ex-devdasis and victims of social violence

The Bhavan Art Gallery, London

There are an estimated 250,000 girls and women in southwestern India still dedicated to their local temple deities as “Devadasis” (meaning “servant of God”). This ancient and outlawed, yet still prevalent, practice originally gave Devadasis a comfortable life and high social standing, but began to be abused by the rich and powerful. Over the years, Devadasis were forced into prostitution to survive.

We collaborated with UK based charity Wishful Smiles and India based Milaap, a micro-lending for profit enterprise and their field partner, MASS, to provide financial support to former Devadasis women so they did not succumb to poverty and therefore return to the world of prostitution. The funds we raised enabled these former devdasis to start or run small businesses that helped them to pay their children’s school fees, generate a livelihood for their families, and save for their old age. Becoming entrepreneurs also offers their children a better future, helps integrate them back into society, and eventually break free of the vicious cycle of prostitution that most Devadasis are doomed to.

We were featured in Asian Image for our fundraising efforts for this project.

Press, ProjectsMerje Shawdevadasis