Each of these men and women come with a unique story– a testimony of unfortunate circumstances coupled with a lack of opportunity. With over 200,000 people waiting to enroll, an enormous potential lies ahead.
PINKY, “My father’s abuse couldn’t take away my education”
I went to school every day … to drop off my brothers.
My father made it clear he never wanted a daughter. Constant physical abuse was indication that he had no interest in loving me. He didn’t even like me. I was a servant in my home, running errands, cleaning & sweeping…eventually forced to work as a servant in other houses. I was 10 years old. My father took everything I earned to buy liquor…getting more abusive towards my mother with every drop of alcohol. I watched my brothers with envy: they were given whatever they asked for—good clothes and food. But whenever I asked for something, all I received was a blow to my face. Sometimes, my mother and I were given nothing for dinner…only allowed to eat after my father and brothers were full. My life changed completely when I found a Literacy Program offered by Read Asia, finally getting the opportunity to learn…and it cost me nothing. Never in my life had I been given anything or felt valuable. My father scoffed at my decision to enroll and attend classes, but I stood up to him—I knew it would change my life. I found my own strength and have confidence in my ability to manage my money and start a business. I want to uproot poverty in my life and live in full empowerment. My father can never take away my literacy, or my desire to see change in India.
“I watched the other children in my village with envy as they attended school together. I remember begging my father to go, but he was frequently drunk and abusive, so I gave up asking. No longer wanted by my own family, I married a rickshaw worker named Kuleet who also became abusive because I couldn’t work. I worried for the fate of my three children, who also had no hope of an education—I wanted more for them but didn’t know how to provide it. Kuleet had a stroke and was deemed paralyzed—an impossible fate for our family. My good friend, Punaam, offered to help me find work; but without being literate, there was nothing outside of small labor to be found. I felt broken. Punaam invited me to attend her literacy classes and I excelled beyond the other students. Kuleet eventually healed and went back to work and apologized for the hardship he had caused. Now I have hope for our family.”
LAKBEN, “I know the truth of being a women in India”
“I know the truth of being a woman in India. I know men are preferred and are given more opportunities. I know that as a child, growing up alongside brothers—they were given the rights to an education and I was forced to labor with my parents to support the family. I know that this is a disadvantage, but I didn’t refute it—this is the Indian culture. A literacy center was started in our community and I would walk by and wish to go, but never had the courage. Not long after that, my husband and I tried to open a bank account but were denied because my illiteracy. Tired of the discrimination because I was uneducated, I grew determined to learn to read and write.” Lakben worked hard on her reading and writing for an entire year, and has made vast improvements with the help of our teachers. She now values her education, and more importantly, values herself as a woman. She has grown in her confidence and gratitude for her life, and now feels like a significant contributor to her home and community.”
“Since I was young, I wanted to go to school, but my father was addicted to gambling. Because of his financial selfishness, my mother and I worked in the field all day just so we could eat, but she always wanted more for my life. When I was a teenager, my mom arranged for me to marry Gajani—a cycle rickshaw worker in Punjab—with the hope that he would lead me into a prosperous life. Gajani worked hard, but earning only a few rupees a day, we struggled to make ends meet. Supporting me eventually became too overwhelming and he demanded that I pay him a dowry, but I had no job. Unable to read or count money, no one would hire me. When I told Gajani that I couldn’t pay, he started depriving me of food and water. I felt trapped and considered all the different ways I could end my life to escape him. Today, I read, write, count money… and earn money! My new abilities helped me find a great job and my husband now treats me with the love and respect I deserve.”