Saina is a confident young lady who makes a living as a beautician. She has hopes of setting up her own beauty parlour in the future. Her ambitions about the future were never so assured in the past though.
“I think I was 3 or 4 years old when I heard the first comments from a relative, ironically also a female. She was lamenting that my mother had three daughters and that was such a huge burden. My poor mother was bending her head as if it was her fault,” says Saina, who has two sisters and two brothers. Her father, a painter, barely earned enough to feed his family of seven and her mother was constantly on her feet to ensure some semblance of order in their severely underprivileged life.
“I’ve seen my mother drinking water because there was nothing left for her after feeding us. I would ask her why she didn’t eat along with us and she would say she wasn’t hungry or at times that she had an upset stomach. At that age, I believed her. As I grew up, I understood the real reason. After that, whenever she said she wasn’t hungry, my sisters and I would also say we weren’t hungry. We wouldn’t eat until she joined us.”
Life went on as it did in the household. As Saina and her sisters grew, other issues started to arise. “Everybody would scare my mother saying that good looking girls needed to be kept in control or they would bring disgrace to the family. While my brothers passed their exams with great difficulty, we scored high marks and passed our school final exams with a good percentage. We would help our mother with household chores and then study. Whereas our brothers just had to focus on their studies. Yet, we girls were not allowed to go to college after we completed Class XII. My younger sisters were still in school and I was getting restless. I was itching to do something constructive. I couldn’t pressurise my parents to send me to college because I knew the financial situation. But I wanted to do something, find some way to make my life better by doing something productive with my free time. That’s when the Saksham mobilisation team knocked on our door. When I heard what they had to say, it felt like God had answered my prayers. They convinced my parents that they should let me pursue what I wanted. It was an easy decision for them to make in the end since it was free and included a class that was exclusively for girls, including finding employment in a company that was for women.”
Life dramatically changed for Saina when she enrolled in the project in October 2017 for the beautician’s course. “I was timid to begin with. I would barely raise my head leave alone look into the eyes of people I spoke to. But Saksham brought me out of my shell. Gradually, I opened up as I began following their instructions and advice. I put my heart and mind into the course and passed with good marks because I knew this was my chance to build my life.”
Saina now works as a beautician and earns INR 10,000 a month. “My mother was my only support and now she’s extremely proud of me. I want to do well in my career and give everything to my parents and my sisters that I never had. I’m focussed on my work and achieving everything I dreamt of. During my training, I also learned to manage my time and money. It gave me a lot of clarity. I see myself owning a successful beauty parlour in the future. Until then, I told my parents I am not interested in marriage. I reclaimed my life thanks to the Saksham programme. Life seems normal now. I feel lighter and more in control of my circumstances. Now, I feel good about being a girl. I have no words to express my gratitude.”