When The Bridge Foundation (TBF) found Rajamma in Karnataka, India, she was doing housework in upper-caste homes so she could feed her daughters the leftover scraps of food. She became so desperate that she borrowed money from a rich land owner. Unable to repay him, she was forced to send her daughters to work in his home–as virtual slaves.
At first Rajamma was reluctant to join TBF’s local Self Help Group–she thought they would reject her because she came from the lower caste. At her first meetings, she wouldn’t sit with the other members because of her social status. Gradually, Rajamma realized that she could change her life and was not destined to live on the fringes of society.
Rajamma took out a loan of Rs. 7,000 (US$196) to purchase a milk cow. Within 10 months, she cleared the loan and released her daughters from their bond. Now, Rajamma owns the cow and a female calf and earns over Rs. 1,200 (US$34) each month. With her savings she bought half an acre of land and has taken another loan to irrigate it for groundnut cultivation. Rajamma’s eldest daughter is learning tailoring while the younger girls are in school.
With visible pride, Rajamma says that TBF has helped her regain her dignity and self-worth. She is now one of the most active members in the group and is accepted as an equal in her village.