Hope, Help & Hashtags: How A $25 Loan Can Change A Woman’s | Milaap

Hope, Help & Hashtags: How A $25 Loan Can Change A Woman’s Life

Story originally posted on arkleus | By Dan Farkas


"Life is about opportunity. Some people find it all the time. Some people hope for a single chance."

The story of Mahananda involves heartache, hope, 25 bucks and a few thousand tweets.

Mahananda is from Kappalaguddi, a village in India. Opportunity is hard to come by in Kappalaguddi, especially if you’re a woman and certainly if you’re a woman who tries to take care of a sick mother.

Mahananda says her uncles helped pay for her mother’s medical care. Instead of paying it forward, her uncles wanted payment back. The amount was Rs 3,000. Today, that’s 50 U.S. dollars.

Mahananda was 16. She didn’t have the money or a way to get it. Be forewarned, what happened next is tough to read.

“They made me a Devadasi and sold me to a trader for money in "Sangli" - for sex trade,” Mahananda recounted.

Even though the practice of having a Devadasi was outlawed in the 1980s, women are still forced to serve as Devadasis across India. Mahananda spent three years at a brothel house. Only after getting pregnant and pleading with the brothel owner was she eventually let go.

Just because Mahananda escaped didn’t mean her nightmare ended. She met Sitava, an activist who tries to help former Devadasi assimilate back into some normal sense of life. Sitava says it’s an overwhelming process.

"Once you are made a Devadasi, you cannot marry anyone,” Sitava said. “People refuse to accept...you as you are incorrectly labeled a 'whore'…even parents constantly trouble you and you have no place and no respectable status in society."

When a mountain of adversity stares you square in the face, you need a little hope. For Mahananda, it came through an organization called Milaap.

Created four years ago, Milaap aimed to connect people who hope to make the world a better place with people who need help. With 250,000 women who share a similar story to Mahananda, there’s a lot of need to go around.

Sarsvati Mahila Sangh, Shegunashi (8)

There’s just one important catch: those who help don’t give a single dollar. Donors loan money to a specific cause or a specific person. Donors can also encourage friends to do the same online and get matching funds to increase the loan total.

“They want to be treated with dignity, not pity,” said Sourabh Sharma, CEO, Milaap. “A person values the same money more, if it is given as a loan as opposed to a donation.”

Sourabh says Milaap also gives donors the chance to choose a project or person to support and follow the person’s progress. He believes when donors see the personal value of a small financial loan, it promotes a spirit that provides further opportunity for people in need.

For example, during Milaap’s fourth birthday celebration, nearly 200 people created more than 1,600 tweets to promote the program and the people who benefit.

“I think at the core we all want to do good, as many times as we can. Sometimes we don’t have the right avenue. Here is a chance to do good while you are sitting on your laptop,” Sourabh said.

In Mahananda’s case, she used funding from Milaap’s Hope Project to create and seed a sewing business. In her former life, it was a way to pass the time and have basic necessities. Today, things have gone so well she plans to hire four more women, paying forward an opportunity provided by people she never met.

“It strengthens our belief that what we are doing is indeed building trust and confidence,” said Sourabh. Even with people sitting far, far away.”

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