World’s Children supports 30 orphanages in India. Here’s why.

We work in India because much of the population lives in poverty and that means the children suffer the most.

India certainly has much to admire and in recent years has made some significant economic advances for its middle and upper classes. But problems rooted in calamity and tradition keep much of the population mired in abject poverty, and children are the main victims.

Between 1.5 and 2.5 million Indian children have been orphaned by AIDS. That is equal to the entire population of Philadelphia!

Nearly 1.2 million children are sex slaves in India – forty percent of the country’s sex workers are under age 18.

Girls are either kidnapped off the streets and sold to brothels, or trafficked from rural areas with the false promise of a job and a future. World’s Children funds sanctuaries for rescued women and girls and has begun a project to end child trafficking in central India.

Estimates vary of the number of trafficked people in the world today. On the low end, the International Labor Organization estimates that as many as 21 million people are living in bondage. That is more slaves than the entire population of London, New York City and Los Angeles combined! How can this happen?


A cultural bias for sons over daughters has created massive problems for Indian girls. Our orphanages have far more girls than boys.

Daughters are financial liabilities for poor families, because a girl will require an enormous dowry paid by her father to the groom’s family. The amount negotiated for bride dowries is staggering and leaves many families deeply in debt, often for the rest of their lives.

An adult son, on the other hand, is expected to take his elderly parents into his home, and his marriage leads to a financial windfall in the form of the dowry.

As a result of this antiquated (and illegal) custom, many families will tolerate a first daughter, but second and third daughters pose unbearable economic problems.

Gender Selection

Unwanted daughters are often disposed of early in their life in heartbreaking ways. The British medical journal Lancet estimated 500,000 abortions are performed in India each year specifically for gender selection, despite its illegality.

Families that cannot afford an ultrasound and subsequent abortion might wait until the birth and, if the baby is a female, quietly suffocate the infant at night or, more humanely, leave the baby at the gate of the nearest orphanage.

For that reason, most of the orphanages World’s Children supports in India have far more girls than boys.