Jamila’s story is not one that would be visible to any stranger who speaks with her. The long years of mental abuse post-marriage that she faced at the hands of her mother-in-law, who preferred a son as a grandchild – does not show on her face. She is currently living in Phurlak village of Karnal district, Haryana. Jamila no longer lives with her in-laws now who caused severe emotional trauma and mental breakdown to her.
In her childhood, she was deprived of the basic needs and learning opportunities that had limited her knowledge of the world and day – to – day affairs. The area where she lives have people who do not give any value to formal education and instead choose to educate their children only at the Madarsa to learn Urdu. The belief lies in being religiously aware of the texts which is known to be sufficient enough, after which they can directly work with the family – mostly in the fields. Jamila chose to educate her daughters but was met with ridicule and shaming. Her elder daughters are now in college and are doing extremely well.
She turned a deaf ear to what the society said.
How ‘Bas kar’ or ‘Batheri’ (Enough, Stop) came into light
People often give names such as ‘Bather’ in Haryana meaning that the limit been crossed, particularly in the context of girls or women who strive to get out of the rut. This also showcases a story of a mother’s struggle for her daughter’s dignity. Jannat’s name, which means “heaven”, was one that was hard-earned after a lot of struggle that Jamila bravely faced. Being her third daughter, Jannat’s birth was one that was both joyful and one filled with anxiety about the future. Upon Jannat’s birth, her dadi (paternal grandmother) said that she had enough of female grandchildren. She refused to hold Jannat and declared that she would go to the Anganwadi and get this baby girl’s name registered as “bas kar”.
Jamila, at the thought of her baby girl facing ridicule in the future because of her name, decided to take matters into her own hands. She moved out along with her two daughters and began living separately. Her husband told her that it’s all God’s grace and God given, she is lucky. These words have motivated her and makes her smile and helped her fight against all odds. Jamila then gave birth to a baby boy and named him Ramzan as he was born in the month of Ramazan. He was born five years after Jannat. When asked about her past she said – “I got married when I was 17 years. We know that one should not get married before 18. I had Muskan almost immediately after marriage. Muskan was born in 7 months…I had no idea, being so young, of how long a child should remain in the womb before birth. I had jaundice while she was still inside, so she was born with jaundice…it was a struggle then.
Jamila also shared how the information regarding post-partum care rituals and practices that are traditionally passed on from the mother-in-law to the new mother (jachha) daughter-in-law were not shared with her since she gave birth to a daughter. “Had I had a son, my mother-in-law would have nicely bathed me, taken care of me, told me how to keep my head and feet covered etc. I didn’t know anything. She didn’t even let me get the required COVID vaccination during my pregnancy because she was afraid that it would induce a baby girl instead of a baby boy”, Jamila said. All this while her husband, Naresh who is an auto driver helped her and supported her throughout.
When asked how Breakthrough helped and how things have changed ever since, she replied – ‘Breakthrough has impacted my thinking and my children’s life in the most positive way and I’m forever grateful for that.’ Jamila and her daughters came across Breakthrough and got introduced to a programme called Taaron Ki Toli. It is a network of youth clubs created by Breakthrough across 150 government schools in Haryana. The aim of these youth clubs is to influence young minds to change gender-based discrimination and ensure an equal society. It creates a platform where students between the ages of 10 and 14 years learn self-awareness and develop skills that facilitate action around gender and rights in their lives, schools and communities. There they met Preeti a TCL member (Team Change Leader) of their area who further motivated them and made them get involved in more programs and events.
Jamila’s story is one of resilience, struggle and the enduring strength of motherly love that faced all struggles with determination. Her family is small but happy one, where women live together, learn, grow and support each other through everything life throws at them.
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