A Dalit woman is thankful for a new sewing machine and for shelter
March 27, 2023
While the economic and social status of women may be improving marginally worldwide, the lives of many women in India — like Smitha Krishnan — have remained virtually unchanged.
Krishnan is a Dalit – a word from Sanskrit and Hindi literally meaning oppressed or broken.
Krishnan, a 37-year-old widow from the village of Chennaipalem in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, belongs to the lowest social group in the Hindu caste system.
Dalit women, who according to published reports make up roughly 16% of India’s female population, are among the world’s most oppressed. Widely reviled across India, Dalit women face not only gender bias but also caste-based discrimination and economic injustice.
Among the many indignities the Dalits suffer, they are forbidden to draw water from the common well, prohibited from entering temples, given the leftovers thrown away by the higher class and barred from the right to education.
Krishnan, a trained seamstress — who already faced rampant income inequality and lack of opportunity — was left as the sole provider for her family when her husband died just before India’s last tsunami, during which she lost their thatched and mud house and everything in it.
Today, supported through a grant from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to the Society for National Integration through Rural Development, Krishnan and her family face a more hopeful future.
As one of PDA’s traditional partners, SNIRD — a nongovernmental organization that has been instrumental in helping the people of India overcome natural and human-made disasters — provides Presbyterian supporters of One Great Hour of Sharing with an opportunity to participate in SNIRD’s transformative work in communities like Krishnan’s throughout southern India.
The Offering’s purpose of helping neighbors in need around the world remains constant, giving the PC(USA) a tangible way to share God’s love since Presbyterians first joined the effort in 1949. One Great Hour of Sharing benefits not only the ministries of PDA, but also the Presbyterian Hunger Program and Self-Development of People. Although the Offering may be taken anytime, most congregations receive it on Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday.
“It was lifesaving when SNIRD came to our community to provide us with shelter and sewing machines, which I never imagined would happen,” Krishnan said.
According to the late Sheku Sillah, who was PDA’s Sierra Leone-based regional project manager for Africa and Asia until his untimely death in November, PDA has partnered with SNIRD for the past seven years, helping thousands of people to cope with the impact of tsunamis, flooding and the Covid pandemic, saving thousands of lives in the process.
Through One Great Hour of Sharing, SNIRD’s work has included raising community awareness about Covid precautions, providing WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), facilitating and promoting mask-making by local women — including Krishnan herself — and being involved in flood and tsunami rehabilitation projects.
Sillah said that the work of SNIRD is also addressing the key goals of Matthew 25 among those who are considered “the least of these” (Matthew 25:45b) in several significant ways.
“One important thing SNIRD is doing is to advocate for the recognition of the Dalits to be registered as citizens of India, in addition to providing them disaster-resistant shelters,” he said. “PDA’s support through SNIRD is dismantling structural racism through advocacies to the government of India for the recognition of socially excluded communities.”
Krishnan’s tears of joy tell the whole story.
“The shelter and sewing machine donated to me by PDA through SNIRD has not only restored my livelihood but has also restored my hope and dignity in my community,” she said. “At the same time, it has enabled me to provide face masks at an affordable price to other community members during COVID-19, who were also finding it difficult to have face masks.”
“Because of people’s gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing, we now live in a permanent and disaster-resistant shelter, my kids are back in school, I am able to feed and clothe them, and when they get sick, I am able to take care of their medication, too,” said Krishnan. “Thank you, PDA and SNIRD. And may the Lord continue to provide for those who continue to give to One Great Hour of Sharing.”
Rev. Emily Enders Odom, Associate Director, Mission Communications, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: One Great Hour of Sharing
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Ryan and Alethia White, Mission co-workers serving in Germany, World Mission, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Emily Wilkes, Mission Specialist Domestic Refugee in Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Let us pray
Wise God, thank you for helping us grow in knowledge of your will and in Christian community. We ask to be enabled by your Holy Spirit to bear fruit that is pleasing to you. Amen.