Everyone loves the underdog in the movies. The stories of them battling the odds and rising above challenges inspire us to better ourselves and make for great entertainment. However, when it comes to the real life, these very underdogs are ignored in favour of the ‘popular’ and the ‘famous’. Deepalaya is a non-profit organisation that aims to identify these economically and socially repressed underdogs and empowers them to take on the world.
One such underdog that was touched by this NGO is Mariyam, a 45 year old women living in a traditional Muslim community in Pataudi, Haryana. Up until a few years ago, the women in her community were under strict ‘purdah’ and some weren’t even allowed to leave their houses. Mariyam’s husband was an on-and-off agricultural worker whose daily wage was barely enough to feed the family. Such was their economic condition that Rukhsana, Mariyam’s eldest daughter, was forced to drop out form school in class VIII.
Mariyam counsels and guides other Self Help Group members on how to become self reliantThis instance acted as a wake-up call for the distressed mother, who approached Deepalaya for help in 2006. She joined a Self-Help-Group where she actively participated in activities and took training programmes in Legal Literacy, Community Sanitation and Domestic Violence. Deepalaya even helped her secure a loan for her business idea. Now equipped with knowledge, skills and finance, Mariyam went on to set up not one, but two separate enterprises. Not only did she repay her loans on time and get her children back into private schools, she also provided a stable job to her own husband.
Today, the entire mental, economic and social condition of the family has been changed – all because one woman decided that enough was enough. Mariyam is still operating her businesses and works closely with Deepalaya to mentor and guide and counsel other women of nearby villages about regaining their self respect and achieving gender equality.