Visit to Women Shelter
As a part of community service program organized by my high school, I together with my other three friends had the opportunity to visit a women’s shelter home. Our task was to make the women in the shelter home aware primary health care. The program required us to teach the women about basic health and hygiene related topics like cleanliness, food and nutrition, and safe motherhood. We visited the women’s shelter home called “SAATHI” (meaning “friend”).
Though I had been to orphanages before with my family and friends, it was my first visit to the women’s shelter home, so I did not have any idea about the likely situation there. We were quite eager to visit the home, so we set the date and time of the visit between us. The day finally arrived. We reached the place where the shelter home was located. As I along with three other friends first entered the shelter home in a chilly morning, I saw a group of about eight women busy making some beads and at the same time basking in the sun.
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Most of the women were in their early 20s and few were in their early 30s.
Some children were playing with a brown dog. As soon as the women noticed us, they all glimpsed at us, but did not show any welcoming expression. I had the impression that they were surprised and did not like the visit of strangers. They looked diffident. The supervisor of the home, who was with us during our visit, told us that there were about four more women inside and she would ask them to come outside their rooms so that we could see the remaining women. She did not come back for about 15 minutes. Then she appeared with a frown on her face. “They are very shy of visitors.
So, they are hesitant to come outside” she said to us. Since we lacked the skill and experience to evoke their response, we felt awkward for sometime. Hoping that the women would feel comfortable to talk to us, we diverted our attention to the children and talked to them. We talked about their books and their homework, and played with them. After an hour of stalemate, some women gradually came forward and expressed their desire to talk to us. In the beginning we asked them their names and which parts of the country they came from. We also helped them finish the beads they were making.
As the day went on the women started getting friendlier with us. They were frank and open with us and were now eagerly speaking. But all I did not know was that the stories that they were about to tell me would then change my life forever. As I was talking with Dolma, a cheerful woman with a short and thin body,I was curious to know why she was there in a shelter home. Though I had learnt from books and media that every woman in the home had her specific reasons for being there, I wanted to know exactly what specific problem Dolma had. As she laid there breastfeeding her toddler, I asked her about her husband. He left us. ” She said. “As soon as our son was born, he left home and did not return. ” “Then, what happened? ” “Well, after a few months, he suddenly came back. ” With curious eyes, I looked at her, expecting a positive response. But to my dismay, I was wrong. “He did not come back alone. He brought a new wife. ” I was shocked and I did not know what to say, so I remained completely silent. Then, she went on to complete her story. “Then, he told me to leave the house along with my son. Not having any other alternatives, I moved out and went back to my brother’s house.
For a few months, I stayed there but I did not want to burden his family. It was hard for him as he was the sole breadwinner of the house with a meagre income. So, I decided to move to Kathmandu, hoping to find a small job to support myself and my son. But since I lacked any education or any income generating skills, I ended up here. It’s already been a year now. ” I was dumbfounded. I had often read such stories in books and newspapers but here I was, hearing it from a person who had herself endured such a situation. Hearing Dolma talk to me, some women nearby approached us.
Slowly, they were coming forward to share their stories. Some wiped their tears as they told their stories. “I was kicked out of the family because I could not bear a son. ” “My husband died when I was 18. When we were married I was 15. My in-laws blamed me for my husband’s death. They accused me of being a bad omen to the family. They would not let me eat any food and make me sleep in the cow shed. ” “My husband and his family constantly harassed me for bringing less dowry (a custom in South Asia where during a marriage, a bride’s family has to gift the groom’s family with money and properties).
So I ran away to escape the torture. ” As sorrowful as their stories were, so impressive were their courage and determination to make the most of their lives even after such adversities. “I want to learn some tailoring skills and one day open up my own tailoring shop. Then I can send my son to a good private school. ” said Dolma. Like her, many of the women there have been striving to learn various income generating skills so that they could live independent and dignified lives.
Many others wanted to go to school to complete their education in order to lead meaningful lives for themselves and their children. That day has truly changed my life for the better. I have learned to be a more stronger and confident person. I try and overcome my problems with a stong determination and thank god for the wonderful oppurtunities he has given me. I was so glad to see women with so much obstacles in life can move on in their life with so much ease and comfort leaving every pain behind. It is