Jesus' Economy is transforming lives and empowering women in Bihar, India. In a state where millions live in extreme poverty, it can seem impossible to have hope. But the people of Bihar are strong and resilient and we are coming alongside them as they lift their families and community out of poverty. 

Bihar, India has a population of nearly 104 Million. More than 54 Million of those people live in extreme poverty. Most of their food sources are dependent on the weather, which during monsoon season often means few crops. 

These families do not have enough money to provide for themselves on a basic level, and this makes for very poor living conditions.

Bihar has a women empowerment measure of .379, ranking among the top 10 worst in the world. In this state, a large percentage of the women are illiterate and jobless, and have no means to help themselves. But with our church planters providing literacy training, they have a chance at a new life. 

Many women and children spend their days walking miles to collect drinkable water. By the time they've gathered this necessity, there isn't much time left in the day for work or an education, and the cycle of poverty continues. 

To help meet the basic need of clean and safe water, Jesus' Economy has funded the drilling of four water wells. Now thousands of people have access to good water; women are able to work, and children are able to go to school. 

We have also funded four church planters. These pastors are actively sharing the gospel with hundreds of people throughout the new home churches and bringing peace to these people and their villages.

With the physical and spiritual needs being met, Jesus' Economy is now focused on long-term sustainability. Forty women in Bihar will be trained to run their own businesses so they can lift their families out of poverty. 

As part of the empowering women program, women learn the trade of creating high-quality, handmade clothing, as well as business skills and employer (fair trade) ethics.

The women will become successful businesswomen, thus able to support their families financially, and the cycle of poverty will be disrupted. Their incomes will allow for physical sustenance, and also for the opportunity for their children to go to school regularly. 

 The women of Bihar, India are immeasurably strong and full of hope for a better future.

Donate to the Empowering Women Program and help end poverty in Bihar. 

 

When our CEO, John D. Barry, traveled to Bihar, India, he met women who inspired him to start our empowering women program

The women he met were resourceful, strong, spirited, joyful, and full of hope. He witnessed their hope through trials and wanted to do something to empower them even further. Women in Bihar spend their days working hard to provide for their families but when the day comes to a close, it's still not enough. 

They walk miles to get to the nearest water well for clean water and by the time they get back home, there's barely enough time left in the day to purchase what little produce they can afford, make meals with rationing in mind, wash clothing by hand, and take care of their children. And yet, they keep going. Day after day. And still they find ways to smile. They have learned how to be content no matter their situation. 

One woman spoke to John about her hardships. She said, "I can now afford to keep my kids in school, but keeping food on their plates often feels impossible. I am constantly facing the decision of whether to eat or pay for school supplies or clothing for my children. Will you pray for me and my children?" She could pay for her kids to go to school through her sewing work, which she learned via a non-profit sewing school, but her business needed a boost.

This woman worked hard but still couldn't provide the basic needs for her family. But here she was, thankful that she could keep her kids in school and asking John to pray for her because she believed there was a way. She believed that some day she wouldn't have to constantly worry about meeting their basic needs. She had hope. 

Help us bring hope to more women in Bihar, India by donating to our empowering women program and see a community transformed.  

We cannot end extreme poverty without the church. The gospel is key to renewing our world. Here’s why.

The gospel demands action. Those actions can change entire communities. From Jesus’ very commission of the church forward, this is clear:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20 ESV).

This call to discipleship is a call to teach people to follow Jesus and his principles (compare James 1:27). Making disciples means teaching people what following Jesus really means. It means teaching integrity, honesty, and love of the hurting. It means showing them that salvation is not just a truth, but also an ideal that changes the very fabric of our world.

Jesus’ calls the Christian to represent truth and help others see the value of that truth. We are to be light in dark places (Matthew 5:15). And here’s what that has to do with poverty.

For the situation of extreme poverty to change, we need to create economic opportunities for the impoverished and fight corruption. This means real people taking real action. But it also means an ethical presence transforming communities and holding people accountable to truth.

In a single day corruption can overthrow years of good. This is why I believe that healthy churches are a core part of creating global equality. If we can provide an ethical framework through the church, there will be a stronghold against corruption. We will have people who will speak up for what’s right.

Churches can help hold people accountable to paying fair wages and not exploiting anyone. Churches can be the voice of truth. As an outside investor, I can even ask a local and healthy church to help with reporting about a business. (In fact, I personally do this now.)

We must create jobs and churches in the developing world. And we must also meet basic needs. A job doesn’t matter if I don’t have access to clean water. Where basic needs are not being met, we must give and meet them.

Global Poverty Affects Us All

What happens in our world affects us all, whether we acknowledge it or not. A desperate community in the developing world is the problem of all of us.

Desperation has created desperate people. And desperate people do desperate things. Desperation gives extremism a foothold. If you lack access to water, healthcare, education, and job opportunities, an extremist leader can come along and claim “The Americans, with all those opportunities and all that wealth, have ignored you.” The extremist can then say, “I will care for your village, if you join our cause.” And when the extremist says these words, and you’re desperate, it’s tempting to listen. 

The desperation of the globally impoverished is a desperate situation for our world. When wars rage in our world, they also rage here. Peace for one person is peace for us all.

Yes, we must fight terror. But we’re also trying to change hearts and minds. We have to fight desperation by offering better opportunities to the impoverished and outsider.

The Voiceless Are Like You and Me

I have met the voiceless of the developing world and spoken to them about their needs. I remember sitting in a circle with a group of women from extreme poverty situations in Northeast India. I remember one woman placing her hands in mine and saying, “I can now afford to keep my kids in school, but keeping food on their plates often feels impossible. I am constantly facing the decision of whether to eat or pay for school supplies or clothing for my children. Will you pray for me and my children?" She could pay for her kids to go to school through her sewing work, which she learned via a non-profit sewing school, but her business needed a boost. 

Women like this are ready to work hard to offer their children a better life; they just need the opportunity. Together, we can offer them the opportunity they deserve. We can connect them to the global marketplace.

Let’s end desperation. Let’s make a better way for our world. Let’s be the truth and light God has called us to be. Explaining this principle, Jesus said:

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house” (Matthew 5:13–15 ESV).

And is there much more to say than that?

 

Join us in our endeavor to help women become independent and build strong businesses by donating to our microloan fund

In this video, John D. Barry, General Editor of Faithlife Study Bible and CEO of Jesus' Economy, discusses the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus overcame racial, religious, and cultural barriers to reveal the true, loving, and living God. What would it look like if we were to do the same?

Jesus Overcame Economic, Racial, and Cultural Barriers 

 

Follow Jesus' example: Empower impoverished women in Bihar, India! Help them overcome the economic, racial, and cultural barriers they face each and every day.


No struggle a person faces is completely isolated. Each struggle is caused by deeper problems, and it can be very difficult to break the cycle. As we work together to alleviate global poverty, we must do more than address one issue.

In Bihar, India, a state with millions living in extreme poverty, fresh water is hard to come by. Women and children spend hours every day walking miles to collect safe drinking water in order to survive. This means those women can’t work and the children can’t go to school, because they don’t have time. And the cycle of poverty continues.

Renewing Bihar, India Through Job Creation

Jesus’ Economy is dedicated to restoring Bihar, India through several programs. We have a program to drill water wells so the women and children can save time and energy every day, a program to plant churches that will meet the spiritual needs of the communities, and a program to empower women—teaching women marketable skills in tailoring and business so they can sustainably support themselves and their families. These programs work together to create long-term solutions for deep-seated struggles.

The poverty in Bihar is intense, and caused by many factors. If we simply provided the water wells and stepped away, the poverty would still exist. Safe water would be more accessible, but women would remain unemployed and families could still not afford to send their children to school.

Christ Demands More than Faith

If we simply planted churches, but didn’t address the physical needs of the people of Bihar, we would be denying the message of the gospel, and people would continue the cycle of physical poverty. James urges believers to put faith into action; to be doers and not only hearers:

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27 ESV)

It is important that we meet the physical and spiritual needs of people in poverty. We can do these things, but we can take it even further by creating jobs to keep the cycle going. We don’t want to provide aid and then step away; we want to walk alongside our brothers and sisters around the world and teach them sustainable ways to provide for themselves.

This is a way we can show love to hurting people. This is the power of the gospel. We get to display the love of God in Bihar, India, and that’s pretty awesome.

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:16-18 ESV)

Join us as we transform lives through fair trade and job creation in Bihar, India.

So why should we empower women halfway across the world in Northern India? Why should we care? Why not on our own soil?

The Why

We started the empowering women program in Bihar, India, as part of the Renew Bihar, India project because women were having to make the choice between feeding their children or putting clothes on their back. Literally. 

Things like paying for the children's school supplies let alone paying for them to attend school or shoes to protect their feet from the rough, hot ground are basic needs that aren't even within grasp sometimes.

As parents in the U.S., thinking about having to make these kinds of decisions for our families eats away at us. As mothers, the thought of sending our little ones outside with no shoes covering their precious little toes breaks our hearts. The fact that our kids don't go to bed hungry every night suddenly feels like the greatest luxury we've ever experienced. 

Poverty and a "difficult life" don't seem to come anywhere near describing what these women face on a day to day basis. Sometimes we think we know what poverty means, how it feels to be living below the poverty line, but do we really? 

The Numbers

In 2011, the population of Bihar was 104 million. That's the population of Germany, Austria, and Belgium combined plus 3 million people; all living in an area about the size of Maine. Of those people, about 69 percent (2005 data, most recent) are living below the multidimensional poverty line (which considers education, health, and living standards). Compared to the U.S., about 13 percent (2015 data) of the country lives below the poverty line. (And in Bihar, poverty itself means something completely different; it means lack of access to clean water, for example.)

And it's not like the U.S. where one could "essentially" pull themselves up "by their boot straps" and climb the income ladder making it out of poverty and into middle class or higher. The social castes in India make that near impossible. Add to that the illiteracy rate of 36 percent (2011 data) in Bihar. The illiteracy rate in the United States is 14 percent (2013 data). How far can you get in society and in providing for your family if you and no one in your family can read? (This is why our church planters also offer literacy training programs.)

On top of this, Bihar, India, isn't exactly vying for the top spot in gender equality. Women aren't seen as equal to men; instead, they're seen as not having much value at all. There's an index that has been developed to measure gender equality in different countries and states. It's based on factors like female income and positions held particularly in government and other decision-making positions by women. Bihar's gender empowerment measure is .379. The U.S. is .762. 

For all these reasons and so much more, this is why our empowering women program in Bihar, India, is so needed. This is why we created it and why we desire to see it succeed and thrive for years to come. We want to see those numbers change for the better and for women to feel empowered in their businesses and as mothers. 

We want to see a generation of women rise up, become empowered, and teach the next generation of women how to be empowered. 

Join us in empowering women in Bihar, India and providing a better life for these women and their families. 

Bihar, India is a state in extreme poverty. Families are forced into a repeated cycle of poverty in which their basic needs are not met. These families are suffering, but we are doing something about it.

We are taking an already existing program in Bihar to a new level. The current program teaches women tailoring and seamstress skills. Jesus' Economy is adding a new, innovative business training program. With this program, we will create sustainable jobs for the impoverished.

This is Jesus’ Economy’s Empowering Women Program.

The Inspiration behind Our Program

The day Jesus’ Economy decided to launch the program is a day CEO John D. Barry will never forget. A woman placed her hands in his and wept. She said, “I can now afford to keep my kids in school, but keeping food on their plates often feels impossible. I am constantly facing the decision of whether to eat or pay for school supplies or clothing for my children. Will you pray for me and my children?" She could pay for her kids to go to school through her sewing work, which she learned via a non-profit sewing school, but her business needed a boost.

Women like this are ready to work hard to offer their children a better life; they just need the opportunity. Together, we can give them this chance for a hopeful future. Jesus’ Economy is offering graduates of the sewing program the chance to learn how to make products for a western market—as well as learn business basics and ethical business practices.

Our partner in Bihar has already taught women how to sew, but they need the additional business skills to become successful and sustainable.

Our Business Training Program

Our business training program will teach 40 women how to expand their businesses. The training has two phases. First, a trainer will come in and offer a one-week training session on product development, employee management, handling accounts, and running an ethical, fair trade business.

The second phase involves hands-on product development training. This will be a two-week session that guides the women through their own product development cycle and further business ethics training. This trainer will be available for an additional 10 weeks for free consulting to the women. By the end of the training, the women will be equipped to sell high-quality products locally and on the western market. They will have moved from tailors to successful international businesswomen.

After the training, the women will be eligible for a microloan from Jesus’ Economy to purchase supplies for their expanding business. Jesus' Economy also changes the economic paradigm by becoming the guaranteed buyer of the products the women are creating. Jesus' Economy will sell these products in our fair trade shop.

We need a total of $11,000 to launch this program, and we currently have raised $4,385

Your donation today renews the lives of impoverished women and kids. The Empowering Women Program is part of the Renew Bihar, India project.

By partnering with us, you can empower a woman in Bihar, India to lift her family out of poverty. Each female entrepreneur will be able to provide a sustainable income for her entire family.

Our world is more interconnected than ever before. We could legitimately provide every last person on our planet with access to the gospel in our lifetimes. Here’s why I believe that.

The Technology Is Available to Us to Change the World

We have better technology at our disposal than ever before. And we can leverage this to bring the gospel to the unreached. 

Today, I can video chat with a church planter in the developing world from Washington state. Google Hangouts and Skype gave us all that ability. Potentially, I could on a video call answer a biblical question of a church planter in the field—in a remote village, because pretty soon, 3G and 4G is going to be everywhere. That’s at least the plan of big tech companies—with their efforts empowered by a space company who can now send reusable rockets to space to launch satellites. This is the age we live in, one where any person on the planet can potentially connect to any other person in seconds.

All the sudden, the issue of training and empowering church planters is far simpler than it has ever been. And the interconnection between those who sponsor church planters and the church planters themselves is greater than it has ever been.

Imagine the potential for global discipleship in this world. I first realized this when I was sitting next to a church planter in Bihar, India and he showed me the screen of his Motorola flip phone. On the screen was my bio on JesusEconomy.org. He said, this is you, right? I was first surprised by how good our website looked on his phone—leave it to me to notice that first. But my second thought is what changed my life: If this guy can look up my bio on his phone, right here while we’re talking, what if I put a study Bible in his hand? What if I gave him a full Bible dictionary and a Bible translation? What if I gave him Bible studies in his native language? And, of course, we can do this. We could even send him video courses on SD cards. We could put any piece of information in his hand.

This is our world. It is more interconnected than ever before. And it means completely rethinking missions.

How We Can Bring the Gospel to the Unreached

If our churches thought long and hard about their budgets, we could—like the churches of Paul’s day—pool our resources to bring the gospel to the unreached corners of our world (see Romans 15:26–29). If we sponsored indigenous church planters, it’s surprisingly cost-effective to fund missions.

The church should be innovating in this space. And in the process, we should be thinking holistically about how we approach poverty and reaching the unreached—thinking about how we care for a person’s soul, mind, and body. We should be leveraging every opportunity possible to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

The fact that the gospel has not reached every people group on our planet is an injustice. And it’s an injustice we can correct.

Likewise, it’s an injustice that the people of our planet do not have clean water. And with technology we can do something about. It’s an injustice that everyone on the planet does not have access to economic opportunities. And in this world, in this time, we can do something about.

Justice is the Bible’s Cry and One We Should Answer

Justice is a central cry of the Bible. The works of the prophets are full of calls to create a more just world (Micah 6:8; Isaiah 1:16; Jeremiah 22:3; Amos 5:23–24). Isaiah put it this way: “Learn to do good! Seek justice! Rescue the oppressed! Defend the orphan! Plead for the widow!” (Isaiah 1:16 LEB).

Jesus himself told us that he will distinguish between those who truly know him and those who do not by what they do for the marginalized, outsider, prisoner, and impoverished (Matthew 25:37–40). And we know from James that true religion is loving the hurting and the poor—the widow and the orphan (James 1:26–27).

Indeed, it is unjust when a child has to go without clean water, healthcare, or education. It is unjust when a parent doesn’t have access to a fair paying job that can lift their family out of poverty. It is unjust that there are millions of people who have never heard the name of Jesus. Let’s do something about it.

Let’s innovate the bring about a future of missions where every last person has heard the name of Jesus and experienced his love.

 

Get more free articles like this one and other updates: Subscribe now. This long-form article is part of our weekly series, “Living for Jesus.”

Just outside Nairobi, Chamtich Kenya is creating jobs for those rising out of extreme poverty situations. This is done through leather and cattle related work. 

Alvin Sang, who leads Chamtich Kenya, is involved in many efforts to help his local people, including working against forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Alvin empowers women through creating sustainable jobs via international and local partnerships. 

Chamtich Kenya and Jesus' Economy Collaborate to Offer Fair Trade Products

Thus Chamtich products are representative of many artisans and entrepreneurs who make various items such as housewares, jewelry, and clothing. Jesus' Economy partners with Chamtich Kenya to further their vision through the purchase of Maasai beaded sandals. More than 20 men and women work to produce these sandals. 

Alvin initiates each project. The materials are then procured by young men in need of work. Other men and women then do the leather working and stitching. Finally, the sandals are handed off to a group of women to handcraft the beadwork on each pair. This results in each and every part of these sandals being handmade.

You can find these sandals for sale at the Fair Trade Shop on Jesus' Economy.

Featured Fair Trade Products by Chamtich Kenya

Spring is finally upon us and for most women that means freeing the feet and busting out the sandals. Why not start this spring season with a brand new pair of sandals that not only look gorgeous and feel comfortable but are a conversation piece about fair trade and empowering women? Chamtich Kenya creates these stunning, genuine leather sandals in two colors and two different bead styles. 

Maasai Black Leather Sandals

Maasai Brown Leather Sandals 

Whether you live where it's warm, or are looking for a gorgeous pair of sandals for your next trip, you will be thrilled to wear these. And when you're asked about them, you will have a great story to tell about how you helped those overcoming poverty through your purchase. 

See more about how Chamtich Kenya creates these sandals in the JesusEconomy.org Fair Trade Shop. 

Shopping fair trade can empower artisans like Alvin to continue to help lift the men and women he works with out of extreme poverty. Join us in helping to alleviate poverty by shopping fair trade. 

Esnart Phiri rises above difficult circumstances to provide for herself and her six children. As a self-taught seamstress, she sews gift bags for the fair trade cooperative, Mulberry Mongoose, which is located in the South Luangwa Valley in Zambia. Jewelry by Mulberry Mongoose is packaged in Esnart’s elegant bags.

Esnart was given a sewing machine 10 years ago and taught herself to use it by watching a local tailor. She now runs her own small business and also works as a housekeeper. By working with Mulberry Mongoose, she has been able to both purchase a better sewing machine and pay for her children’s education. Fair trade entrepreneurship has transformed her life.

Today the jewelry of Mulbery Mongoose is sold on JesusEconomy.org, in partnership with Dsenyo, LLC. Together, our three companies are making fair trade products that empower women available to the world.

Mulberry Mongoose and Dsenyo promote fair trade jobs

Mulberry Mongoose is an artisan initiative in the South Luangwa Valley. Located in a remote area, Mulberry Mongoose artisans design and craft jewelry inspired by the African bush. They use locally and ethically sourced materials such as tagua, semi-precious stones, wooden debris, and collected snare wires.

Mulberry Mongoose is committed to giving back to the community and supporting conservation efforts. To fight poaching, the women in the Mulberry Mongoose cooperative created the recycled snare wire collection. From snares used in animal traps have come beautiful products. For every piece of snare wire jewelry sold, a $5 donation is made to nonprofits focused on wildlife conservation and anti-poaching efforts.

The local artisans at Mulberry Mongoose work with Dsenyo, a Jesus’ Economy partner. Together, we’re empowering female artisans from Africa and Latin America. Dsenyo works alongside artisans to improve situations for impoverished people, promote a holistic economy, respect cultural traditions, and build global relationships.

Dsenyo is also committed to limiting negative environmental impact, and uses sustainable dyes and fibers, such as buriti palm, jute, and organic cotton whenever possible. They compost organic scraps and repurpose textile remnants.

Featured Fair Trade Products by Mulberry Mongoose

The Kitana Necklace in Daybreak from Zambia

This beautiful necklace is the sum of many unique parts. The Kitana necklace is made from locally-sourced abalone and freshwater pearls. Its driftwood beads come from the banks of the South Luangwa, where heavy African rains twist and turn the landscape, bringing trees down from the banks. The crushing power of the water creates the beautiful forms of our driftwood pieces. Enjoy a piece of art from the ingenuity and creativity of the African bush. Pick up your Kitana necklace today.  

Earrings from Zambia: Tagua Leaf

The name Malaika is a strong girl’s name from Zambia meaning angel. The Malaika collection of jewelry is inspired by thoughts of angels. The tribal inspiration and strong natural elements featured in this collection are completed by using sustainable materials from the African bush. Stand out while supporting fair trade jewelry made in Zambia.

 

Jewelry that Fights Poaching

The Zimba Snare Wire jewelry collection makes a statement against poaching. Each item in the collection turns wire from poaching traps into jewelry. Help reshape the world by buying from this collection. For every piece of snare wire jewelry sold, a $5 donation is made to nonprofits focused on wildlife conservation and anti-poaching efforts. Support conservation with an incredible conversation piece from the Snare Wire jewelry collection.

Necklaces from Zambia: Snare Wire Long


See the entire collection of jewelry that fights poaching.

 

See more handmade products by Mulberry Mongoose in the JesusEconomy.org Fair Trade Shop.

Shopping fair trade can transform and empower artisans like Esnart. Join us in transforming lives through fair trade.

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