Rajasthan, India. 2005. Digital.
Haju, pictured in the village of Khalton, Rajasthan, India, is the chairperson of a local women's self-help group. Started in 2003 with assistance from Doosra Dashak (an organization that funds education and development programs for youth), each of the group's members add 50 rupees (about $1.13) a month from their personal earnings into a shared fund. The money from the fund is used to help pay for marriages, delivery of babies, and women's health care. The group also uses the funds to organize monthly youth forum meetings and run a medical distribution center.
As is the case in many villages in Rajasthan, nearly all of the men in Khalton left their homes to work in the cities. Most of the women earn meager incomes from farming and raise their children alone. None are literate, but the group has gained the respect of many villagers as an effective organization for stepping in to help improve women's livelihoods when the local government has failed. Haju says her main goal is to encourage younger girls in the village to receive an education and learn marketable skills. Many girls, she believes, will have the opportunity to improve their lives through Doosra Dashak's support.
Mimi Kuo-Deemer is a photographer who works throughout Asia, Europe and the USA. Her photography explore the intersections of gender, culture, spirituality and social and economic change. Her photo projects have included subjects such as the conditions faced by women in literacy and education, migration and labor, religion and drug addiction. She worked as a photojournalist for Agence-France Press and Reuters News Agency before becoming a freelance editorial photographer in 1995. She contributes regularly to the New York Times and the United Nations family. In addition to photography, Mimi also teaches yoga, and credits her yoga practice to an ongoing search through the camera lens for strength, beauty, and compassion in the world. For more information visit www.mkdeemer.com.