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The Hope Project is a campaign to inspire urban masses towards empowering rural women through small contributions. What makes this project special is that the women in this case are ex-Devadasis and the possibility of self-reliance through entrepreneurship is a ray of fierce hope for them.

Become a Champion of Hope

Our goal is to raise $100,000 in loans to fund 500 small businesses run by former Devadasis, so that they can become self-reliant once and for all. It's an ambitious goal, no doubt. But, we hope you’ll join us as an official Milaap “Champion of Hope,” and collectively we can achieve this goal.


History of the Devadasi system

An ancient practice in India, the Devadasi (meaning: ‘servant of God’) system involved dedicating a girl, as young as 5-6 years of age, to the temple Goddess. This meant that she would spend her entire life serving the temple and was not allowed to marry anyone else. The system was abused by the rich and the powerful who began to force the young Devadasis to sleep with them.

Over the years, the Devadasis were reduced to being incorrectly termed 'temple prostitutes'. This merciless practice, though illegal and outlawed, still exists in certain small towns of India and its stigma continues to cling to the women who attempt an escape. Because of the social stigma around their roles, employment opportunities are denied to them. It is a vicious cycle where future generations too, are drawn into this ruthless system.

Milaap and ASSET

The Hope Campaign is the result of collaboration between Milaap and ASSET India Foundation. Milaap focuses on entrepreneurship as one of its primary impact areas, while ASSET looks to provide women (and their children) rescued from trafficking, with livelihood skills and opportunities.

Through this campaign, we aim to shed some myths about this practice and invite small loans for the micro enterprises of these women. With these small loans, the women can set up small businesses and escape from this cycle of hopelessness.

Over the last 3 years, Milaap has raised over Rs 7.5 Crores, impacting nearly 40,000 lives across 10 states in India.

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Kalki Koechlin

"Mahananda's story is really incredible and inspiring. The idea of not making people dependent, but making them independent and productive is a great thing to support." Full message
Kalki Koechlin | Indian Film Actress

Sumitra Senapaty

"All women deserve to live with dignity and freedom. I whole heartedly support the Hope Project to empower ex-devadasi women towards financial independence and a life of respect. Make a small loan and change someone's life!"
Sumitra Senapaty | Founder, WOW Club


The Devadasi system refers to the practice of marrying a young girl to the Devi (Goddess) of a temple. She was expected to serve in the temple. This “marriage” also meant that she could never marry a man. This happened when the girl was around the age of 5 or 6. It took place for several reasons. For one, if a couple’s first child was a girl, they would offer her to the temple hoping to please the goddess and have a boy child the next time. Or if they had many daughters, giving one to the temple meant they wouldn’t have to find a groom for her and they would save on dowry. Also, she would stay nearby and could care for them as they grew older.

A lot of documentaries and stories wrongly equate devadasis to prostitutes. However, most of them are forced into it. Legally, the practice is forbidden. Laws have been put in place where both the devadasis as well as the perpetrators of the system can be punished. In many small cities and towns across India though, this practice still continues surreptitiously.

One of the major challenges they face is that the projected image spoils their chances at employment and the stigma associated with it. In cited examples, we heard how they were denied even manual labor jobs in the fields simply because they were devadasis.

The government does help them, but there is still a long way to go, to eradicate this system. Establishing them in small businesses of their own will help greatly, since that reduces their dependence on anyone else for employment opportunities. Also, when they are in relatively stable jobs and earning an income, they are able to provide for their families. Their children are able to get an education and will not be forced to get into the same system.

Milaap has partnered with MASS as their community partner. MASS is a reputed NGO that works to rehabilitate Devadasi women when they manage to escape from the system. They do this by forming Self Help Groups (groups of 5 – 15) and training them in livelihood activities. Right now, the women are involved in a basket of activities that include tailoring and buffalo rearing, mom n pop stores, basket weaving, fabric printing to name a few.

In order to carry on the activity though, they need a certain amount of money as start-up capital (raw materials, machinery etc). Milaap’s loans help them gain access to raw materials so that they are able to grow their businesses and gain stable income. Not only are they independent, they are able to ensure a good future for their children.

Click here to start a fundraiser campaign. In just a couple of clicks, you'll have your campaign page ready. All you need to do is share this page on your Facebook, Twitter and email, rally your friends and family to contribute. As a Champion of Hope, you are now the voice for these women - make sure you're heard loud and clear!

No, in keeping with Milaap's policy, this is a loan, NOT a donation. Every rupee/dollar will be repaid to you, by the entrepreneur you’ve chosen to support.

Your loan will be repaid in 12 - 18 monthly installments.

Help us share the story. With your support, we can empower 500 women this holiday season.