Thanks to the GHMC, 20 destitute women have a shelter. But jobs, and thereby self-reliance, seem to be eluding them
A year ago, 35-year-old Damayanthi took a huge step in her life. The frail-looking housewife took her third child, five-year-old Puja, and walked away from the house of her in-laws to catch a train. She had no destination in mind when she boarded that train from her native Bhubaneshwar. Two days later, she was begging on the streets of Secunderabad in a desperate attempt to feed her hungry child.
“A shop-owner spotted us and guided us to this exclusive women’s shelter. Since then, things have improved, but still I am unable to meet my two elder children. After the death of my husband in an accident, my in-laws sent away both my elder children to an ashram. They blamed me for his death and used to beat me. I had to escape for the sake of my child,” she recalls.
It was the GHMC women’s shelter at Namalagundu in Secunderabad that saved Damayanthi and her daughter. With a capacity to house 35 women, the shelter currently has 20 inmates, all of whom have similar stories to recount.
However, their future remains uncertain.
“The women here want to work but don’t know what to do. They don’t have access to skill development courses, in-house psychological support, medical check-ups, voter ID cards or Aadhaar cards to establish their identity,” says Indira, co-ordinator at Aman Vedika, an NGO which manages the shelter.
Another inmate, Rajini is all of twenty, but already a mother of an 11-month-old girl.
“The authorities here have asked us to search for a job and vacate the shelter within six months. I have just applied for Class 10 examinations and need time to search for a job. Wherever I go, they ask me for my identity card, which I don’t have,” she says, .
Almost all women at the shelter work as domestic helps in neighbouring hotels and restaurants.
“We pool in donations from philanthropists and their meagre earnings to purchase rice, vegetables and other groceries to feed the children. We do not get subsidised food grains under public distribution system because we have no ration cards. Nor do we get subsidised gas cylinders, they’ve to purchased in the black market,” says Soni, the caretaker of the shelter.
Qama Sara Fathima was asked to leave home by her husband and in-laws as she could not bear a child. A B.Sc and a B.Ed, Fathima is struggling to find a job as a teacher.
“I am thankful to the government for providing us a shelter. But we need a little bit more support to start afresh,” she pleads in flawless English.
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