The key to empowering women is them having a skill that generates income. We offer free candle-making classes for women at YMCA centers in the slums of New Delhi and the surrounding rural villages. We support them until they are able to make and sell candles independently from their homes.
When Sarika was in middle school, she spent 3 years in New Delhi, where she met six wonderful women who came to her grandparents’ home for guidance and support. She learned that they were victims of cruelty and atrocities committed by their husbands. Some women had been thrown from their homes. Victims of a generational cycle of violence and exploitation, the women had lost their dignity and self-esteem, lived in perpetual fear, and had no means to become self-reliant and financially independent.
She wanted to help them, and an unforgettable experience showed her a way. One day her grandmother took her to a school for blind children called "The Blind Relief Association," where children her age were making candles and cards to be sold at the Diwali Mela. Diwali, the festival of lights, is India's biggest festival. Proceeds from candle sales go to the school and its children’s welfare. Inspired and uplifted by this experience, She visited the school many times, beginning a journey that began with her learning the art of candle making. Two months later, her school, the American Embassy School in New Delhi, organized a fair at which she was given a stall to display and sell her candles. She decided to make citronella candles that repel mosquitoes, which in India's tropical climate, often transmit diseases deadly to humans -- Malaria, Dengue, Chickungunya, and most recently, Zika, for which there are currently no preventable vaccines. Her mom, the six wonderful women, and she spent weeks making and decorating candles we placed in beautiful ceramic and glass containers. The candles were a big hit and sold out, and she gave the profits to these women and the Blind Relief Association: Those who had no light in their eyes had taught her how to give light to others. Her first successful fund-raiser brought her immense satisfaction and a sense of purpose. She longed to help the blind school and the women who had assisted with the candle-making.
In the 6 years since Sarika founded Ujala, 1000 women have learned to make candles, and with Ujala's support, more than 100 of them are on the path to becoming financially independent. Ujala seeks additional marketing opportunities and donations to reach the millions of disadvantaged women who live in some of the poorest and most oppressed parts of India.