How Milaap’s #HopeProject Gives New Life to Former Devadasis

March 7th, 2014 | Shonali Burke | 15 Comments

Mahananda Metri, KappalaguddiThere are a lot of pros and cons about being an independent business owner, but one of the pros is that, if you try to build your business right, you (mostly) get to pick your clients. And that’s really lovely.

But even when you have really great clients in general, every so often one comes along that makes you look skywards, pinch yourself, and then do the Hokey Pokey while lip-syncing to “Come on Eileen.”

Weren’t able to picture it, were you? Ha!

I don’t often write about clients, but today I will. And that’s because it’s such a great blend of profit and purpose, that you should know about it. It’s especially fitting today, as International Women’s Day is tomorrow (and you remember how much fun I had working with Oxfam America on their IWD initiative a few years ago, in fact, you should check out what they’re doing this year too!).

Image: via Flickr, CC 2.0

When $25 changes a life

What would you say if you were told that a modest loan—not a donation, mind you, but a real loan, where you’d get your money back—could completely change someone’s life?

And that in 2014 you could invest in micro businesses …

… started by former Indian sex workers, forced into prostitution because of a centuries-old practice …

… and help these hard-working women stand on their feet …

… for just $25?

I know what you’d say. “Where do I sign up?” Right?

My client is Milaap (“mill-aahp”). That means “unity” in Hindi, and it’s an organization that marries micro lending and crowd funding for lasting societal change.

I know you’ve heard of, perhaps even made loans via, micro lending platforms… platforms that let entrepreneurs source several small loans from multiple sources, as opposed to, say, one big loan from their bank. Well, Milaap does that… but takes it a step further.

It encourages people from all around the world to lend individually and collaboratively, via social fundraisers hosted on its platform, to micro businesses started by India’s working poor, for causes as diverse as water, energy, sanitation and education.

So literally, when you lend a little, you end up changing a lot.

This year, I’m thrilled that we’re working with Milaap on its flagship campaign, The Hope Project, which shines a spotlight on former Devadasis (pronounced “day-vuh-daah-sees” and meaning “servants of God”).

These are rural Indian women who, because of a centuries-old tradition (outlawed but still prevalent) were “dedicated” to serve their temple deity for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, the system was abused, and many were forced into the sex trade.

In fact, it’s estimated that even today, approximately 250,000 girls in parts of southwestern India are still dedicated to this ancient practice.

Mahananda, who’s pictured above, is one such ex-Devadasi. Her story is heartwrenching… and there are way too many like it.

#HopeProject aims to help these hardworking women rebuild their lives by starting their own businesses. And when you, and I, and hopefully many others, invest in their lives, we’re doing just that – giving hope.

If you’re the kind of person who cares about making a difference in peoples’ lives – and I think you are – check out Mahananda’s story (and tell me if you recognize the voiceover!):

We’re kicking off the campaign today, and have all sorts of fun stuff planned, like a Milaap Champions of Hope initiative, and much, much more.

I’ll be setting up and sharing my own fundraiser, to which I hope you’ll make a loan, but in the meantime, I’d love it if you’d keep up on Twitter, Facebook, and the campaign hashtag, #HopeProject.

I know we try to do good every day. At least, most of us do. But to be able to contribute as tangibly as this to someone’s life… it literally gives me goosebumps.

So I hope you’ll come along for the ride!

Shonali Burke
Head honcho of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke is President & CEO of Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc. Based in the Washington, D.C., area, she loves helping for- and non-profit clients, both small and large, turn corporate codswallop into community cool™. She also loves ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

Latest posts by Shonali Burke (see all)

Print Friendly
Opt In Image

"A Little Birdie Told Me" could fly into your inbox just once a month. It's Shonali-as-seen-nowhere-else. What're you waiting for?


I haven't seen @lauraclick lately...any chance you're going to SMMW14 this week? Would be fun to catch up!


This is awesome, Shonali! Let me know when you set up your fundraiser. I'll be happy to support you and this great organization!

And PS, loved hearing your lovely voice on the voice over!


This makes me both sad and happy: sad for the path these women have been forced to take, but happy that there is an option for them to change that path. I wanted to run over and comment quickly when I saw your post/tag on g+, and promise to return. For now, know that I will spread the word and be back soon. Cheers! Kaarina

Shonali moderator

@lauraclick  Laura, THANK YOU, that is so kind of you! I will email you because there was something else I wanted to talk to you about.

How are you? I really appreciate you stopping by when you are so busy, and my own reading/curating/commenting has fallen off so much (I'm slowly trying to get back to normal). Have you chatted with @rhogroupee lately, btw?


@Shonali I'm good! How are YOU? Do email. I'd love to hear from you. :)  

And no, I've not chatted with @rhogroupee. Waving hello now! Rosemary - how are you?


@lauraclick @Shonali  I'm also going to SOBCon Chicago in June. It's awesome! Don't know if there are still tickets left, but it's a great small conf that's chock full of meat & great connections. I'm still sad about Social Slam too...


@rosemaryoneill @lauraclick @Shonali  Sadly no, I'm not going to SMMW14. You'll have to let me know what you think of it. I need to find a good conference or two to attend since Social Slam got canceled this year. Wish I would have planned for SMMW instead. Any other conference you recommend?


  1. […] and above that, crowdfunding is integral to the #HopeProject campaign SBC is working on for Milaap (disclosure: client), not to mention building and motivating […]

  2. […] how, when we started working with Milaap, I told you about the #HopeProject and the Devadasi women it empowers to break free from the vicious cycle of […]

  3. […] how, when we started working with Milaap, I told you about the #HopeProject and the Devadasi women it empowers to break free from the vicious cycle of […]

  4. […] and above that, crowdfunding is integral to the #HopeProject campaign SBC is working on for Milaap (disclosure: client), not to mention building and motivating […]