Sambhali Trust: an NGO striving to empower women of lower castes in India through vocational training.

Sambhali Trust: an NGO striving to empower women of lower castes in India through vocational training.

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

In a repressive world, Dalit women face the triple burden of caste, class and gender. Often maltreated not only by higher members in the patriarchal society but by their own family; they are forced to stay at home and work while watching brothers go to school. Each time we start working with a new girl, her low self-confidence reinforces the necessity for a safe-haven for these women; a place where we can help them build their self-esteem and independence with and by providing three basic needs: free education, income generating skills and self-awareness. Through this, we hope to empower them – to the individual woman and her children, it could change everything, as she passes qualities of empowerment and independence down to her children; not inherited prejudices and repression.
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

India’s caste system is estimated to be the world’s largest surviving social hierarchy and one of the sources of educational and economical discrimination in contemporary India. The Dalit women that we work with are based in either Jodhpur or a small village called Setrawa. Many of our Micro-finance women are currently living below the Indian poverty line -under $1 a day-, and have numerous kids who cannot afford to go to school. Village life and Indian culture boast a very tight-knit community lifestyle. Although this does mean close friendships and security, there is a mob mentality the way in which everyone conforms or is subjected to rumours that lower the family’s reputation. In a culture where family means everything, Sambhali has had to be very careful to continue being seen positively in the areas in which is works. A delicate balance of community-based activities and support from the village Sarpaanch has helped to keep Sambhali’s reputation, and keep our girls’ attendance, up. Unfortunately, NGOs themselves have a very bad reputation in India for being dishonest organisations, so we continuously have to prove our legitimacy to the community. As our Empowerment Centres are in the target group’s local areas, we are now becoming part of the tight-knit community ourselves- with the mothers in our Self Help Groups, the daughters at our centres, and their sons attending on Saturdays, Sambhali has been integrated into the family’s lives for the small group of people with which we work. The male community is cautious of, but generally respects, Sambhali’s efforts.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our NGO is the only Trust that can offer a guaranteed job at the end of our 2-year vocational training programme. After an initial start-up donation, The Boutique should cover the running costs of the Graduate Centre and the Boutique itself, as well as the payment for the Graduates. Although they can receive guidance from Sambhali, it is our desire that they become completely self-sufficient and expand their own centre, setting working hours which suit them. Our self-help groups also receive profit the moment they start making money- even whilst they are still paying back their loans. As illiterate women, they are offered free assistance by our fieldworkers, but their group leaders are local women who have shown leadership skills- not employees of Sambhali Trust. The received money then goes into a revolving fund, which will be used for the next loan. Sambhali provides the skills and start-up funds for women to become self-sufficient and successful, and assists when required, but we hope to leave the women with our 3 quality aims: independence, self-esteem and unity. Sambhali is itself heading towards self-suffiency. In time the Graduate Centre, Boutique and both Microfinance Projects should cover their own costs through profit or revolving funds. We hope to be a self-sustainable as possible. There is also the personal relationship and security the Sambhali family offers to its participants. We have marched to police stations when the officials wouldn’t listen to individuals’ pleas for a divorce, offering refuge and temporary homes to a Sambhali woman is in need.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Sambhali has 9 projects, all corresponding with our aims to empower minority groups in Rajasthan. Our 3 Empowerment Centres provide their women participants with classes in Hindi, English, Maths, and Arts and Crafts. Once graduated from the 2-year course, they can move to our 4th project: the Graduate Centre. Here, graduates can use their learnt skills to generate their own income by making products for our local Boutique. Alternatively, when they leave, they have the support of and skills taught by Sambhali to encourage and protect them whenever the require it. We then have two Micro-finance projects, where through interest-free loans and free advice and help, women can take out loans either to buy cows, goats, sewing machines etc., or to start their own shops and businesses. Most of these women are illiterate and below the poverty line, and are now all receiving a profit each month, while paying off their loans. Currently, there are 178 participants. As an extra support to our SHG women, the Sponsorship Programme was set up to encourage girls who want to return to school/ start school by having their school fees sponsored by a donor. Our 9th project, Aasha, is our targeted intervention programme, focusing on the prevention of HIV/AIDS, and giving its LGBTQ participants free counselling, sexual health education and support in weekly workshops. All our projects inspire to empower their participants through education, employment, and by providing a refuge from the constant repression they feel outside of Sambhali.
About You
Sambhali Trust
About You
First Name

Govind Singh

Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Sambhali Trust

Organization Country

, RJ

Country where this project is creating social impact

, RJ

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

Sambhali Trust was born from the childhood experiences of the founder, Govind Singh Rathore, a child born into an environment of a patriarchal structure where he witnessed on a daily basis the brutal acts of cruelty towards the women of his family at the hands of his own father, specifically towards his mother. He spent his childhood unable to protect his mother the way he knew she needed protection and so vowed at an early age, to do what was within his power to protect the most vulnerable of women and children of India's society. With the encouragement and help of his grandmother, mother and wife, Sambhali Trust was established in January 2007.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

The individual successes are measured through regular testing in the English and Hindi lessons as well as comprehensive files kept on the embroidery stitches and techniques the girls have learnt in their Arts and Crafts sessions. We are also now about to employ our fourth graduate as a member of the Sambhali Trust team; one is the Graduates’ Sewing centre supervisor, one is working in the boutique, one is the centre manager of Setrawa Empowerment Centre and one is about to be employed as a Crafts teacher in one of the empowerment centres in Jodhpur.
Within our Sheerni Microfinance we have had a total of 75 members of the self-help groups being directly helped with loans which have enabled them to start or continue with their small income-generating enterprises, including one woman who has purchased a flour-grinding machine which serves the needs of 50 villagers, a collective of women owning dairy cows which produce milk for a local school and one women has started a jewellery business.
Through the Scholarship Programme, we now have 35 students sponsored to go to good schools of which one of them was top of her class last year and many students who attend the centre in Setrawa are top of their class in English because of the extra tuition they have received through Sambhali enabling them certainty of remaining at school where it is so necessary to pass their English exams.
Our most dramatic success is the way in which the girls themselves have changed into confident, independent and happy women. They stand up for themselves and each other when appropriate.

How many people have been impacted by your project?


How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

101- 1,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

We will start 2 new Empowerment Centres in Dalit community areas in Jodhpur. This means we would require another centre for the new graduates. As our Boutique expands (it is starting to take international orders), we do not foresee a time when we cannot offer any interested graduate a job.
While we plan to continue and expand Dalit women empowerment, the fact remains that if any members of a community are repressed the entire community suffers. As we start to work with Sexual Minority groups, we will create a drop-in centre as part of project Aasha, where anyone can raise their health concerns and get treatment. We would like to expand the Sheerni Micro-finance to include more women. We will emphasise more on the self-sustainability both participants and the organization.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Our main barrier to the success of our project is the society’s view on Dalit women, including the families of our beneficiaries, who have sadly often stopped them from coming. As our women also have to do all their housework, their attendance can be sporadic, as whenever the family requires them to work, they will miss lessons. Without regular attendance we cannot progress their learning. We try and show the families how beneficial our vocational course is, and to show their improvement. With our younger participants, we show this by weekly tests, which have to be taken home to be signed by their father. We have also gone to participants’ houses to talk to their families if and when they have concerns, and encourage volunteers to go to have chai (tea) with their families, so they can see their daughter/wife conversing in English. In our Setrawa Empowerment centre, for younger participants, we have started including young boys with the hope that they will grow up with the same views as Sambhali’s towards the treatment of women. It’s very rewarding watching them together. By becoming accepted by the community ourselves, we hope the families will allow and even encourage women in their families to come regularly to our centres.
Our other issue is funding, as we currently only have one-year grants. Although these will most probably be continued, we do not have complete financial security. As we try to become more self-sustainable, we are also constantly looking for future donors and partnerships.

Tell us about your partnerships

We have made strong partnerships that have helped us financially and with ongoing support.
The founder of the Veerni Project has supported Sambhali in setting up the Sheerni Project, helping women gain independence through micro-credit loans. Ms. Jacqueline de Chollet, their founder, serves on Sambhali’s Advisory Panel.
Frères de nos Frères is a non governmental Swiss organization. Their motto: ‘It is better to teach people how to fish than to give them food’ is a guideline for today’s projects. They have supported us with an annual grant, and show great interest in our work.
The Department of Women and Child Development, Jodhpur, implements certain innovative programmes for women and children. They have given us the funding to take their Micro-finance group under Sambhali's programme.
Basel is a Swiss organisation committed to improve the conditions for people in the poorest countries of the world. They have supported us generously, with their founder on our Advisory Board.
The Planet Wheeler Foundation is an Australian charity supporting practical and effective projects which make a difference in the alleviation of poverty. They have generously supported us through their Global Development Group.
Soziale Initiative is a voluntary organisation working with ‘Young People at Risk’ in Austria. Their founder is on our Advisory Board.
We have also worked with Antenna Trust, India, on women’s nutrition, Shared Vision, India, to get free eye testing and glasses for our participants, and are currently working with doctors of NACO in our new Project Aasha.

Explain your selections

Our range of projects attracts a range of supporters. Where our Sponsorship programme in the Literacy Project usually attracts individual donors, as well as donations for Sheerni woman to buy a cow, or a goat, etc, certain groups of people also donate to us due to a shared belief, eg) a homosexual couple giving a large donation for Project Aasha.
As we have a large network of international volunteers, there are a lot of people emotionally involved in and with Sambhali. The founder’s family have included the Sambhali participants as their extended family. These people have seen Sambhali’s work firsthand, and so are avid donators.
Our volunteers, 68 of them to date, have also been heavily relied upon and have done fantastic work. Not only do they tell the girls first-hand what their lives could be like, but their passion and hard work is infectious and a huge support to us all.
Customers from the Boutique are told about the Trust and tip generously, or give small donations to the Trust.
We receive support in Setrawa from the village Sarpaanch, who has greatly helped Sambhali integrate with the villagers and become accepted. Similarly, Jodhpur’s local police stations all know and respect Sambhali, and have learnt to take a Sambhali case of domestic violence or appeal for divorce seriously.
As previously explained, other foundations and NGOs have given us annual grants which have made it possible to do the work we continue to do. Our shared beliefs with these organisations make an easy partnership which we hope to continue in years to come.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

We hope that the Trust itself will become more self-sustainable so as to help with financial security. As our Boutique expands, its revenue should support the Graduates, their centre and the Boutique’s running costs, with its profits funding Sambhali itself. With personal donations for individuals’ loans, we have accumulated a revolving fund to use for the Self-help groups. This will go towards paying for the next loans, without Sambhali having to give any more donations. We also wish to invest in a van, so that we would not have to pay for rickshaws each day to transport the girls to and from the centre, as well as buying centres we currently pay monthly levies for- this, in the long-term, would be lower-cost, but is currently not economically viable. We want to hire another employee to control our Trust’s admin, as currently we rely solely on volunteers; this provides inconsistency and irregularity of work. We will encourage volunteers to stay for longer internships, thus being more beneficial for both parties. We plan to expand to offer the health drop-in centre and other extra facilities to strengthen our services we can provide for our beneficiaries. We’re looking for more funding grants as opposed to relying on personal donations- this will help us not only to budget, but give us the security to expand and improve our work. We would also like to increase our network of local connections, such as with the government, to ensure local support, and potential job opportunities for our graduates in the future.

Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.


Restrictive cultural norms


Lack of skills/training


Other (Specify Below)

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

1. Our vocational training offers our illiterate and shy beneficiaries a basic education, skills and a guaranteed job if they so desire it. During these 2 years, workshops from foreign volunteers aimed to improve their self-awareness, confidence and teamwork also give our participants a sense of belonging and unity: important skills to Dalit women who feel inferior and alone.
2. By merely giving these women a place where they can relax and be themselves is a luxury many of them have never had before. With an attitude that they are here to serve/obey their husbands, and they are worthless, we try to make them feel some self-worth, and give them a few hours each day to relax and enjoy themselves.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.



Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services


Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

Our 2 new proposed empowerment centres will mean that women who cannot/are battling to get transportation to our current Centres can still have the chance to receive our vocational training. This we can reach out to more Dalit women in their own community.
In the last couple of weeks, we have started to expand our clientele by reaching out to another unrepresented group in Jodhpur- Sexual Minorities- with our new Project Aasha. Currently, this entails weekly workshops that have been on STI/AIDS/HIV awareness, counseling, Sex Education on contraceptive methods, and a programme has been developed that will incorporate STI/HIV testing. In future, we hope to expand this into a Drop-in centre where all our Sambhali participants can talk about health concerns confidentially and without judgm

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

NGOs/Nonprofits, Academia/universities.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

By collaborating with The Department of Women and Child Development, our Priyadarshini Adarsh Micro-finance project has been completely funded- our trained fieldworkers and experience with micro-credit means that we can assist these women without any financial concerns.
We also have a link with Pavia University, Italy, who send volunteers to our organisation. Our volunteers are a great help with supporting our teachers and creating workshops and enthusiasm.