Terre des Hommes Nederland has been fighting against child exploitation for 55 years, worldwide. The name ‘Terre des Hommes’ means land of people.  It was with this in mind that the French journalist and pharmacist Edmond Kaiser founded Terre des Hommes in Lausanne. “Because every child has the chance to develop great talents if it’s well taken care of.”  

Today, Terre des Hommes Netherlands is active in 18 countries and works towards preventing child exploitation, removing children from exploitative situations and ensuring these children can develop themselves in a safe environment. Terre des Hommes Netherlands is works towards a world where young people can feel safe today and better about tomorrow. 


The Devadasi System

Presently, the Devadasi system in North Karnataka is a practice where adolescent girls from lower caste communities are dedicated to Goddesses, after which they are expected to perform sexual favours to men.

Earlier, Devadasis were performing artists, displaying their music and dance skills exclusively in temples as a form of worship. As years passed, socio-cultural and sexual exploitation seeped into the system which victimised girls and women from lower-caste communities.

At present, it continues to be institutionalized exploitation of young girls and women, convincing them that performing sexual duties is their role in society. Culture is being misused by people with vested interests for their pleasure. As a result, women and girls are denied their sexual rights. They are discriminated against and face severe verbal and sexual harassment.. They are helplessly trapped in a vicious cycle of exploitation. 

Children of Devadasis are teased and abused as they don’t have legal fathers. They are not allowed to take part in social events, are looked down upon and end up feeling isolated. Although some of these children manage to attend school, the above reasons lead to them dropping out and eventually joining the system.

Young girls in the system barely get to see the light of education; their potential is not harnessed and empowerment remains a far-fetched dream.



The State of Devadasis in Karnataka, India

District Number of Devadasi women
Ballari 9,733
Bagalkot 7,827
Koppal 6,035
Vijayapura 4,103
Belgaum 4,724

A study conducted by the Karnataka State Women’s university in 2017, with support from Terre des Hommes Netherlands in India revealed that there are 80,000 Devadasi women in the North Karnataka region. 20% of the Devadasis in North Karnataka are less than 18 years old. 

Children of Devadasis are most vulnerable to sexual and social exploitation. They lack paternal support and are isolated and looked down upon. As a consequence, they have little to no academic support and often drop-out of school.

The Devadasi practise is illegal and a punishable offence under the Karnataka Devadasi Prohibition of Dedication Act 1984 (2010). However, it continues to prevail in many parts of North Karnataka due to negligence from Government & Law Enforcement Agencies as well as prevailing socio-cultural beliefs.

About the Project

Children Empowerment for GOOD (Getting Out Of Devadasi System) and Preventing further Dedications is a 3-year programme (2019-2021) instituted by Terre des Hommes Netherlands in 2019.  

It aims to empower at least 2500 adolescent girls in North Karnataka to fight against the issue of Devadasi dedication using the Child Participation and Child Empowerment approach through mass awareness and advocacy campaigns. 

The project is being implemented in Bellari, Koppala, Bagalkot, Vijayapura and Belagavi with the help of Community Based Organisations. (CBOs) These are networks of Devadasi women who have pledged to work for the cause of their own community.     



Project Objectives

  1. Rehabilitating victims of the Devadasi system, preventing dedications and providing vulnerable girls with opportunities through education and vocational training.
  2. Facilitating child participation and child empowerment, along with community sensitization to prevent children from sexual abuse/exploitation from the Devadasi system, through mass awareness and advocacy campaigns.
  3. Strengthening systems and services for Child Protection by advocating with Government and Law Enforcement Agencies.

Partner Organisations

The project is implemented in the most vulnerable districts of North Karnataka with the help of 5 civil society organisations. These organisations are networks of Devadasi women who have pledged to work for the cause of their own community.


Amma Foundation

Amma foundation is an independent non-profit organization that was set up on 12th February 2015 in Raibag Taluka, Karnataka. Since its inception, the organization has worked to strengthen and support women and children from backward communities in relation to education, health and economic position.  

The organization accomplishes this through well planned and comprehensive projects in remedial education, skill development, livelihood health & nutrition and sanitation. Amma foundation partnered with TdH due to its 20 years of experience in working towards the abolition of the Devadasi system.  It is currently functional in Raibag Gokak, Mudalagi and Chikkoddi Taluka villages with respect to the Children GOOD project.


Chaitanya Foundation

Chaitanya AIDS Prevention Women’s Sangha Mudhol is a community-based organization that was set up on 2nd March 2001 in Bagalkot District. 

Twenty-six Devadasis and female sex workers came together, with support from BIRDS, to collect information from the Government and NGOs regarding these issues. It was then that they became aware of a state-level sex workers collective called Sahabagiri. 

With support from Sahabagiri and BIRDS, they formed a “Sangh” called Chaitanya in Bagalkot district. What was a small group registered in 2001, has now become an organization with 4698 members. Currently, Chaitanya is operational in 16 villages in 2 taluks in relation to the Children GOOD project. 



SNEHA  (Society for Integrated Community Development) is a Non-government organisation that was set up on 17th March-1994 in Ballari, Karnataka by T. Ramanjaneya.  Mr. Ramanajaneya started his journey as a grass root level worker and over the years he has acquired expertise in working for the development of children and women,  especially those belonging to Devadasi communities. 

As an organization, SNEHA aims to improve the education, health and socio-economic development of children, women and youths from backward communities with a special focus on children and women from Devadasi families. SNEHA is engaged in the capacity building of rural communities to ensure their participation for enrolment, retention, and quality education for children of 3-16 years. 

The organisation identifies and organises adolescent girls from Devadasi and Dalit families and capacitates them to protect themselves from child marriage, sexual abuse/exploitation and gender-based violence and to get a rightful share in government programs such as housing, ration cards, monthly pension etc.

SNEHA was the lead applicant for the Children GOOD Project and is currently responsible for its implementation in Ballari and Koppala districts.