Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Real Stories, Real Time (Part 1)

Production Trip to Lalitha Women’s Cooperative at Aarti Home, Kadapa 
18 – 24 March 2012

Day 1
Met a young mother 18 years of age, her name is Ramalakshmi. I thought she is much younger, perhaps 14, due to her thin, petite frame. Her 2 year old son, Chendu, is napping on the floor beside her, where she sits with 8 other young women practicing embroidery.

She is one of many young women in India who are married off at a young age, due to the perception that daughters are a liability for the family. Girls as young as 12 years old are married to grown men of 30, 35 years of age, sometimes older. Often, their education is disrupted as they are then expected to perform the wife’s role of keeping house and bearing children. These are pressures exerted on them, sometimes from their own mothers. 

One girl in such a circumstance was beaten at home by her husband. She ran away and came to Aarti Home, pleading for help. She was taken back home when her husband and mother-in-law came looking for her. The police was involved, and the case was resolved by the authorities giving her 3 days to stay at home and from there, to decide for herself if she wanted to remain married, or to go to Aarti home to continue her schooling. It seemed like she was given a fair chance and option to choose for herself.

Unfortunately, in the first of those 3 days when she returned home with her husband, she was abused severely, stripped naked and beaten. Fortunately, she was brave enough to attempt another escape, and this time, she managed to secure a safe shelter with Aarti Home, whose members helped to push her case with the police, who eventually makes an arrest of her husband.

Many such stories happen all around parts of India, and many more girls suffer the same situations, and more often than not, continue suffering in silence when they do not have a supportive organization such as Aarti Home to run to.
Many of these women are abused, sometimes even killed, by husbands, and sometimes mothers-in-law. These stories go unreported.

Those whose stories we hear are the fortunate ones who manage to escape from a tragic fate. How much silence is there in the vast rural countryside villages of India? We do not know, and can only imagine.

In contrast, we see women who have sheltered, trained and worked at Aarti Home for years. These women have happy faces, they smile and speak confidently. They walk with purpose in their strides. These are women who have found renewed self-worth and confidence in themselves in being at Aarti Home and benefiting from its programmes. They take on various roles and vocations, whether as coordinators, helpers, trainer assistants or trainees. The opportunity to take part in purposeful work has helped them to reconstruct their self-images as women and opens up a whole new, life filled with hope for them. 

We hope that very soon, Daughters Of Tomorrow can offer a job to Ramalakshmi and more women like her to produce our designs. And with our profits, we want to help fund Aarti Home’s continual outreach to the women community of Kadapa, so that young women suffering in silence can be aware of this window of hope for them.

Children blessed by the book donations, enjoying their reading time.

Happy and cheerful face of a child 
(His mom is empowered through employment at Aarti Home)

"Helping women help themselves" sees benefits trickling to the next generation, of healthy, well-loved children whose parent is empowered economically and emotionally to provide and care for them independently. Because only when mothers are empowered, will they be able to support and love their children. Support sustainable livelihoods for women!

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