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“The Very First Step”

The Very First step is all what we, the women need. Presently, in almost every corner of the world we have organizations and people trying to help women. But how do you help one or enlighten one’s life if the person herself is too hesitant to take that very first step towards having a free and better life. From what I have seen around me even in my very own circle, that out of ten women who were not happy in their lives nine would not even dare to take a step towards improving it. In spite of knowing the fact that if they take a step forward there are so many people to give their hand for help. Well I don’t blame them. There are so many reasons behind this hesitancy. Most importantly there is no or very little awareness amongst them. Most are not even aware of the fact that out there beyond their small world, there are people who can be with them and make sure that they lead a better life or at least put in all the efforts to achieve it. Well, the reason behind this non-awareness can be either of two. First, few of them don't want their life to be improved as they have very well compromised with their destiny and have given up completely so they never look beyond their wall. The other kind will be the one who very well be aware about such organizations but still won’t dare to reach there, thinking about the society or family pressures. This may be, because sometime we are shy or ashamed of our own situations which eventually hold us back from putting it in front of world. Therefore, even if we are aware of opportunities nonetheless we would not be able to take the first step. I would say, we must take that very first step to stand up, be strong and take the step forward for a better life without thinking about anything else but ourselves and better being of our surrounding.

With this I want to share two different stories of two maids who used to work at our house lately. They are from same background with same situation but the ends of their stories are different. Reena is married with two kids at the age of 22. She is a pretty, cheerful and fun loving girl. She stays in a joint family (An extended family which includes several immediate families of relatives, staying together under same roof) with her husband and families of other two brothers and parents of her husband. She leads a very simple life, which starts from getting up at 5 a.m., travelling door to door for cleaning house and dishes , coming back home at time to do her own household work starting from cleaning, washing and cooking etc. Although she is very keen to study which she left when she was 8 years old to help her mother what she does now, but she has no time for that in her day or life. One day, I asked her whether she would like her daughter to do the same job as her or she wants her to have a proper education, she said “I would never want my daughter to live a single day of her life like me”. When I asked her what she will do as no one in her family will send her to school. She said “I have decided that as soon as she is four, I will send her out of this city to study without me or my family so that she would have no influence of this life and she will be on her own one day. I will make sure whether my son goes or not to school but my daughter will for sure be graduated and I will stand for her at each and every step”. After 2 years, I asked her again how her daughter is and I was so amazed to know that she has actually done what she said and her daughter is studying in a good school out of the city and she pays hostel and school fees. Her husband is not paying a single penny for her daughter’s education, in fact he is unhappy to loose few extra bucks her daughter could have earned cleaning dishes.

On the other hand, when I asked the same question to my other maid, Manju about her daughter, she straight away told me “She has no other option in her life except to work. So, I have started her giving the household works so that after few years she can be expert like me.” Age of her daughter was then six years, that little girl used to finish all the household work after her mother and other four sisters had left for house cleaning work. Father used to sit and play cards whole day and get drunk at night and come back home. When I heard that, to help her I gave her an option that I will pay for her daughter's studies but please send her to school, answer to this was that the time she will spend in school is an waste as in that time she can earn some 400 or 500 rupees per month. She had already decided her daughter’s future. Even if she ever wanted it to make it better, she won’t due to the fear and hesitancy to tell her husband about it. She told me, even after working all day and earning on her own she could not pay the fees as her husband will snatch off all her money she earned, so that he can afford his evening drinks.

The point is what Reema did, Manju could not and back then I could not help her in my ability. She could not help herself and her daughters. The slavery of Manju’s life continued to her daughter. But I wished one day each and every woman will take their very first step without any fear, hesitation in their mind and heart. Let us all take our very first step in the journey of being better us and making every woman’s life better.

Economic Power
Gender-based Violence
South and Central Asia
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