India: Empowered women standing for what they believe
Social barriers could be a hindrance, but not for these women who dared to stand up for their rights and for what they believe. Rinku and Beula work as dressmakers at Creative Handicrafts (CH) as dressmakers.
"My name is Rinku. I have been working at CH for the past 3 years. Right from childhood I was never taught to be independent. It always seemed as though the goal was for me to get married. I got married at 17 and my life after marriage was terrible. I bore a lot of physical and mental violence at the hands of my husband and in-laws. I told my parents many times that I wanted to get out of this marriage but each time I was asked to adjust. It would be a dishonor to my family for me to separate from my husband. Many times I ran away from my in-laws house and went to my parents’ home but each time I was sent back. They said that this time things would be different, but they never were.
"After my baby was born things got worse, they wanted a boy child. At that point there was no value for me or my baby, having nowhere else to go I went to my parents’ home again. My parents did not want me. They said they could not afford me and I surely had no skill to earn and support myself. At that time I realized that I had to find work as soon as possible. I joined the CH training center and learnt to stitch. I now work at one of the CH cooperatives, I enjoy stitching and for the first time in my life I can financially support myself and my child. In fact I even help my parents financially. My family has now accepted that I will not go anywhere where I am not respected.
"My daughter is now 3 years old. I don’t want my child to fall into the trap that I fell into, where I was not given an opportunity to study, where I was treated as an inferior sex, where I was not accepted and where I was forced to bear violence. Creative Handicrafts has empowered me in many ways, not only financially but it has taught me and shown me that being a woman, I am an equal and I am proud of it."
"I came from my native village to Mumbai 30 years ago. The slums were a harsh contrast to my village life. My ‘house’ consisted of just one room with no toilet and no kitchen. All the ‘houses’ in the slum were like this. My husband and I could not afford the room rent, food, school fees with only on my husband’s humble salary.
"I joined a garment company and found the work too tiring and the environment unsafe. I would stand for over 10 hours every day and the payment was low. I was very lonely in the new city and could not speak the local language. This is when someone told me about CH.
"I learnt stitching and I was good at my work. From being shy and introverted I felt secure to express myself more. Over the years I became the in charge of a women’s cooperative at Creative Handicrafts. I now manage 25 women in my group, I get work done in good quality and I meet all production deadlines.
"My children studied management and engineering, as I have worked extremely hard to pay for their fees. Part of their expenses were paid by the CH educational sponsorship and I also took a loan from the CH loan facility. Just recently they both got well-paying jobs and it has propelled us to a much better place financially. Who says a woman can do nothing, ask my family. They have seen themselves the strength of a woman."
Story contributor: Creative Handicrafts
For International Women's Day 2018 celebration