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July 17, 2010
Change comes from within. Within each person, certainly, but also within a community, from the web of minds that shape a household, a village, a culture. Change often sprouts up, struggling, between cracks in the pavement, fueled by internal unrest. Sambhali Trust has planted this change in a fertile bed, where a garden of women can unfold their brilliant, resilient petals.
The potential of Sambhali Trust runs deep within the experiences and beliefs of its beneficiaries. Each smiling woman and girl has a story, hardships and roadblocks they’ve faced and continue to tackle. When I arrived at Sambhali Trust, I was welcomed by a graceful group of women, adorned in vibrant clothes, jewelry and a thirst for knowledge. I swelled with admiration, and anticipation of working towards women’s empowerment.
Meeting the members of Sambhali Trust, you would never imagine that most are from the Dalit caste (known as untouchables) and considered a lesser female since birth. Every day I watch as this title is rejected by Sambhali’s women, overwritten in open notebooks filled with English and Hindi, replaced by beautiful embroidery of original design, and overshadowed by the fluid motions of dance and joyous laughter.
My internship at Sambhali Trust focuses on the Sheerni Micro Finance Project in Setrawa, a village close to Jodhpur, Rajasthan. This project creates Self Help Groups, in which rural women can save money and take loans to begin a business. A powerful way to empower women, it offers financial independence and respect to previously limited lives. It is an opportunity for a woman to prove her worth and abilities, take control of her life and the well being of her family.
I’ve met a widow who stretched electric wires all the way to her house in the desert to grind grain; girls who labor to rebuild their fallen home in the morning, rushing to attend school on time; women who bring their daughters to learn sewing, intent on fulfilling a dual role as mother and apprentice. Everyone’s struggles and achievements are shared, understood, and supported by friend and institution. Each helps the other succeed.
Equaling my inspiration from the girls is my gratefulness for the phenomenal staff at Sambhali Trust, who has dedicated its whole self to the empowerment of women. The director, teachers, managers and every employee and volunteer are a pleasure to work with and get to know. Many of them have had their fair share of hardships, and have come out stronger, a true inspiration for the repressed and disadvantaged.
I realize, as a visitor, I am likely gaining more from this experience than I could give back. But that doesn’t stop me from trying, and it’s easy to become committed to such an impressive effort. Sambhali Trust draws miracles out of the ordinary, pushing each member towards her unrealized potential. The Sambhali family rises beyond the bounds of caste and sex, leading the way to education and acceptance for each repressed mind. It offers the opportunity that every soul is entitled to: a chance to dream.