Case Studies



107/4, Parsee - no - Bungalow,
Opp. Lal Bharti School,
Chamanpura Circle, Asarva,

Twenty-one year old Sitaben was a typical Indian girl in a typical village of India. As is often the case she belonged to a large, poor family. The immediate family alone had 11 adult members. Her father was a daily wage earner, making between Rs.25-30/- per day.

Her mother was a simple housewife. Among the four married brothers that she had, two along with their families lived with Sitaben's parents. At thirty Rameshbhai, the elder brother, having the I.T.I. certification, was employed as a diamond cutter at a salary of Rs.20/-. Being an Arts graduate Ganpatbhai (24), the younger one, worked as a contract labourer earning between Rs.25-30/- per day. The two sisters-in-law too supplemented the family income by doing odd jobs as and when possible.

In 1996, Sitaben came to Ahmedabad as a shy bride of eighteen. Her groom, Dipakbhai, having studied only upto class X, was unemployed.

The major bread-winner of the family was her father-in-law, who earned Rs. 2000/- per month as a peon in the Indian Railways. The family income was augmented by the mother-in-law who earned between Rs.60 & 70/- a day by selling firewood. As in her mother's house, the family here too was a large, joint one. Two brothers-in-law, Prakashbhai (12) and Aazadbhai (8) were both unemployed. Of her four sisters-in-law, the two were married and resided with their respective in-laws.

Sitaben was married when she was studying in class XII. An academically oriented girl she had been hopeful of clearing the board exam. This was not to be as her in-laws refused to let her continue her study. So, on the day of the exam Sitaben's sister-in-law beat her very hard and did not let her reach the examination hall. And the dreams of a bright future bit the dust !

Sitaben's life was full of mental and physical torture right from the day one of her married life. Daily taunts and constant verbal abuse of Sitaben's parents, regarding dowry, was a way of life for her mother-in-law. She was rebuked for speaking Kathiawadi language instead of the Vaghri tongue! As if all this insult was not been enough, Sitaben was regularly beaten up like cattle. Yet; she never complained and endured all the ill-treatment meted out to her.

Meanwhile, Sitaben got curious about SEWA Bank's savings account as a neighbour, Krishnaben talked about it constantly. So one day she accompanied Krishnaben to SEWA's office with the intention of opening an account herself. There she was introduced to Nirajbhai and Champaben who were discussing SHARDA Trust's Garment Operator's Training Programme. As she showed eagerness, Nirajbhai gave her all the relevant information about the programme.

He had particularly mentioned that this training was meant for the unemployed women slum dwellers, as learning how to sew would give them an employment-generating skill. Moreover SHARDA Trust also took responsibility of finding employment after the trainees successfully completed the course.

This seemed like a Godsend opportunity to Sitaben as she had been interested in sewing and tailoring since she was a child. When she was still a youngster, her parents had even enrolled her in a sewing class in her village. The subject was close to her heart and dreams of becoming a skilled seamstress began to take shape. The thought of owning a sewing machine, adding to the family income and collecting a nest egg for the future was a most tantalising one. So then and there Sitaben made up her mind that she would enroll herself for this course.

Before Sitaben's thoughts could be put into action, there remained the onerous task of convincing and getting permission from her in-laws. As she was so keen, she did gather the strength and confidence to risk her mother-in-law's anger and beatings! The poor girl's efforts were wasted as she received a straight unequivocal "NO" for an answer.

Their protests had been, "Do you expect your mother-in-law to do the housework while you attend training ?" And, "We don't have the three thousand rupees for your training fees?"

Sitaben, used as she had been to the negative behaviour and insults, she replied that she would ask her brother to pay the fees. She was also prepared to complete all her housework before she left for class each day. All her pleas were useless for, her in-laws continued to be like Cinderella's stepmother and stepsisters. Anything she wanted was not to be hers.

As a last resort Sitaben approached Nirajbhai of SHARDA Trust and described her difficulties in joining the course. Nirajbhai, ever ready to help, then brought Dr. V. L .Mote to her house to convince the old couple. Sitaben asked her parents-in-law to accord due respect to Dr. Mote and Nirajbhai. Obviously it went unheeded and the two gentlemen were thoroughly abused. Tenacity is a compulsory trait in this field and the experienced officers of SHARDA Trust kept on trying till they succeeded in getting permission for the unfortunate lady.

Sitaben's joy knew no bounds as she completed the formalities and underwent training for a month at a centre near Gandhinagar . The financial aspect had been taken care of by her brother.

The positive environment of the centre coupled with her previous knowledge of the subject made her a keen and bright student. Under proper guidance Sitaben flowered into an accomplished seamstress.

Those were tough and physically exhausting days. Waking up at four in the morning to complete the housework including the cooking, attending training the whole day, returning home to more housework and the night's cooking-all this was surely strenuous.

To expect any kind of help from her in-laws would have been like asking for the moon! No wonder then even today Sitaben is proud and satisfied about having single handedly managed it all.

While still a trainee Sitaben had, through SHARDA Trust, applied for many jobs. She was interviewed and selected by garment factories in Bapunagar, Kalupur and Shahpur. An obviously delighted Sitaben came home that day to ask for permission to take up any of the jobs offered. On top of the permission being denied the entire family got together and beat her mercilessly. Sitaben tried a good many times to reason out with her mother-in-law, agreeing even to hand over her entire pay packet, but this cajoling only harmed her instead of being of any use.

Sitaben's mother-in-law then started poisoning Sitaben's husband's ears against her saying, " If she takes up a job, she will rise higher than you. Then you will have no prestige in society." As a result of this constant pressure even her husband refused to let her take up the job. Moreover, whenever Sitaben tried to complain about the beatings, he would tell her that she either obeyed them or got beaten up.

In the end she rang up Nirajbhai of SHARDA Trust and apprised him of the situation. Nirajbhai offered to intervene but recalling the insults heaped upon him and Dr. Mote on the first occasion, Sitaben asked them not to come to her house.

The aftermath of this scene was worse. Day in and day out Sitaben was beaten senselessly, was completely starved for a week and finally dragged by her hair and dumped outside the house. Yet, she waited for the door to open and to be let in again. Ultimately neighbours and friends advised her to return to her parents' place in Unjha. Since that fateful day Sitaben is once again dependent on her parents for a living.

Even to this day Sitaben regrets being unable to pay the last installment of her fees to SHARDA Trust. She still has hopes of repaying this loan as soon as she gets herself a job. As she is a conscientious person she is even ready to stay in a hostel at Ahmedabad if she is employed by a garment factory in this city. At the time of reporting, no such positive scene was in sight.