Thursday, March 15, 2012

A life lost...a painful tribute

When I think of Shaheda, I remember a bright and bubbly child who would run and hug me close. She was 9 yrs old when her maternal uncle sold her. The mother who was also into prostitution was a mute spectator. We got the information a tad too late, but we rushed and rescued her. On a precaution we also rescued her younger sister Sahera as we thought she could be the next target.Out of fear that we may book a case if they protested the mother and uncle kept quite. In those days we were not too particular about booking a case mostly because we did not work closely with police then and felt it was just enough that we saved the children. Also our main informers were women in prostitution and they were not at all comfortable giving any information to the police.

What was very striking about Shaheda was her extraordinary resilience, the moment she reached the safety of our shelter she was a new person. Her own efforts to overcome her pain and trauma was for me a great inspiration. I do not remember spending too much time counseling her apart from the first three or four sessions. Then she became a role model for all other victimized children. Her interest to excel in all activities both curricular and extra-curricular made her a high achiever. In the meantime we saw change in the mother who slowly gave up prostitution and started a new life. For 7 yrs Shaheda lived in our shelter. After she finished her X std I asked her whether she wanted to go back to her mother. Shaheda and Sahera both felt the need to go back to their mother. We let them go with a undertaking from the mother that she will ensure that the children's education will not be discontinued. In the first two years we regularly monitored their welfare. After that we lost touch.

Yesterday evening I got a call that Shaheda died. I was numbed to silence. The worst was to know that she was dumped before a dargah and that is where she breathed her last, day before yesterday night. Shahida was positive due to the sexual violation she was subjected to, but throughout the 7yrs that she was with us she was like any normal child. 3 yrs after she left our shelter slowly opportunistic infections crept in. The mother refused to take her to a hospital fearing social repercussion, instead took her to one dargah after another. Finally three weeks back when matter worsened she just dumped the girl before a dargah and left. My little Shaheda was just 19 yrs old...she was lying before a dargah as a destitute, seeking alms...can there be a more painful and inhuman death?

Today I am filled with guilt and pain. Was I right in sending this child back to her mother? Should I have taken care knowing her HIV status. They say institutional care is the last option and community based care should be the first option. But if the communities around us are no more safe for our children where do we send them? Should I have created a longer follow up plan...if so for how long should we have followed up? As civil society organizations do we have the wherewithal to sustain long term follow up plans...I kept asking the mother why she did not abandon the child with me, I could have taken care?
As I struggle with all these questions...Shahida's face haunts me...did she deserve such a death?

40 comments:

  1. It's very sad to hear, Sunitha ji..But we know your intension was for good.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dear Sunitha,

    I read this "story" with great sorrow and wish to condole the death of Shaheda. In her living she became an inspiration to her shelter home mates; in her death, may she spur all of us, to try and do something more for our unfortunate children. As I think more, I feel that life came a full circle for her. Abandoned by her own mother in the first instance, she went through a cycle of violence and abuse; found hope and love with you; and once more, a second time, was abandoned by the mother - to die and wither away on a street, uncared, unacknowledged...

    I however, would like to take away something positive from her life. She did find love and peace and hope with you and her other shelter home friends. There are so many, who never do and never shall find even this momentary compassion and kindness. So, I would say, you did your bit. I am compelled to write this comment simply to acknowledge the existence of Shaheda's life. May she rest in eternal peace. And if there is a rebirth, may she be born as another Sunitha, and carry forward your TAPASYA...

    ReplyDelete
  3. It IS very painful. May her soul Rest in Peace. Can we let our children know they can come to Prajwala anytime when faced with difficult situations? There are so many 'graduates' of Astha out there... the thought is scary.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dear sunitha,

    i am sorry to hear, i can understand your pain, but few things are out of our control. whatever you have done had a god intention. please don't be guilty for what you have done

    ReplyDelete
  5. it's very sad to hear Sunitha Mam.. but it is not because of your mistake... Whatever you have done only for her happiness... keep going..

    ReplyDelete
  6. I know it's a really pathetic story...but I felt what you are feeling..may be you should have kept the girl with you...may be you could have extended her life a few more years....but how long? I have no answer for that..u cannot have control on everything that happens...:( better not regret and see if you can take care of the younger sister atleast...keep doing what you are doing...we always admire you n your work..

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Sunitha,

    While I write this with immense pain and sorrow I cannot even imagine what you are going through. The problem is that there is so much to tweak within ourselves and the society we live in....it really becomes difficult to manage all ends. Of course on one hand there are no limit to it but there is only that much that one can do.

    I am not writing this to console you but to merely highlight that there is lot more to do and only a handful people / organisations cannot bring in change in such a large society. All of us need to contribute towards creating a better living for our children, elders and human beings at large :)

    Keep up the good work !!! You are truly an inspiration.

    Best wishes and Smiles always,

    Neha

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Sunitha,

    I'm someone who is interested in doing some volunteer work at Prajawala. I had already mailed regarding the same to Prajawala but found that there was hardly anything that I could do as I was based out of Bangalore.

    Reading this blog of yours i think that these is something that i can do for you. If you want to keep a personal follow up on anyone is Bangalore you can use me for the same.

    Please contact me at 9035783036

    Regards
    Rayhan

    ReplyDelete
  9. It will be sometime to overcome the grief.

    May be you would have informed her mother about the positive status and the kind of medicines they should use. Or provide other source of livelihood for them or keep them with you till they stand on their own.

    I know that due to other commitments and financial constraints, keeping children with you for many years would be difficult. May be, there can be a tie up with other organizations like Swadhar Homes (KGNM Trust in Bandlaguda).

    Whatever we think now, will not bring back Shaheda. Keep up the good work. Every painful incident enrich our experience and help us to weigh all possible options and worst case scenarios, while taking decisions.


    Congratulations to you for winning the Vital Voices Leadership Award for Human Rights. With these awards, may you receive more support for your work and more and more success in your endeavour.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Not your mistake Sunitha, you did everything you could, and you were empowering young Shaheda, to live her own life. As some of the posts state above, you can't be everywhere. Just take solace in the fact that you did everything you could. And your great work continues to inspire me, really. I don't follow your blog, but came across this one. Everything happens for a reason...thank you once again for moving my soul.

    Raji

    ReplyDelete
  11. i love u sunitha chechi u r so cute

    ReplyDelete
  12. What about Sahera?? Please get her back...you are a true hero Sunitha. I can't find words to describe what I feel about the dedication that you have. One day (hopefully soon), I hope to come volunteer for your company.

    Deepa

    ReplyDelete
  13. Rajesh Bothra was born in Mumbai 1968, in Marwari family from a Rajaldesar village in Rajasthan. When he was aged about 16. He decided to quit his further studies, because his ambition was to become an excellent businessman. After quitting his studies he decided to start his business. In Present days his Business is popular by brand name Mercury, which is sold and uses his product Worldwide by common people.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This post has a lot of importance to the people…I hope you can continue to inspire and post more of this…Thanks Online Training!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Indeed, sad to know about someone, who was an inspiration, to others.May her soul rest in peace.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Sister,
    I am really moved having read from and I am a big fan and admirer of yours.
    Have you sought the help of organisations who have already webbed into the communities ? Perhaps this movement can be taken to a wider and more effective scale in this manner.
    Kindly do email me at anthroid@hotmail.com
    I would love to be in touch with you.

    Shaheda, I will remember her in my duas tomorrow by sunrise. Her name comes to mean "sacrifice". Insha Allah, her return to Him, will not be in vain.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Madam.....

    My name is kristy anand. I am only 16 year old boy i am very much interested in social working. Just now i had ur speach in indiavision. I am very much impresed. I want to do anything or something to our society.




    I would like to work with u..



    PLZ REPLY TO ME MY E MAIL ID IS
    kristyanand@yahoo.in

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hi Sunitha mam,

    I am Aravind. Just today i saw your interview in Sakshi TV. And got interest to know more about your works and foundation and started to browse..

    The first story that I come across from your blog is Shahida's and bit sad after reading that. You are god given mother and good soul. No doubt about it. But all world is not alike. Though if we protect cub carefully till some age, and leave it to forest, Cub cannot servive until it accustomed to it's environment. Though we are with good ideas and thought, environment is very important. Today Shahida is an example to it. you are really a great soul and I am small infront of your rich thoughts to tell you all this. Just i am reminding you this mam.

    You said in interview, that every six to seven years, you got a new lession from your experiences. So I hope it is the time. so it's not the time to think how long we have to protect them. It's time how we create them an individual being. I specially feel that, A responsibility not only completes if we undertake, completes when we fulfill it. So revise thoughts, explore a new way, how to save them further and not only giving good life at education level and in future too, till they stand on their legs and become individual in society. And lot of people are with you to support you in your new ventures. and now onwards, one more person added in your follower's list to help you out at my maximum extent (it's.. me).

    Once again I congratulate to your courage,individualism,thought provoking and never give-up attitude. Keep going.... :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. It is sad to hear such stories. I thought that cases such as Shaheda was only confined to some regions of the country. Recently, I was shocked to find out that Jharkhand state where I serve is one of the hubs of human trafficking especially young girls. And to know that it is well organised with protection from goons is all the more frightening.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I dont know why the God has made this world. I dont know what he is getting to make people suffer. Is there any solution of all these problmes?
    Don't Know, But I remember one quote of Swami Vivekananda:

    The miseries of the world cannot be cured by physical help only; until man's nature changes, these physical needs will always arise, and miseries will always be felt, and no amount of physical help will cure them completely. The only solution of this problem is to make mankind pure. Ignorance is the mother of all the evil and all the misery we see. Let men have light, let them be pure and spiritually strong and educated, then alone will misery cease in the world, not before. We may convert every house in the country into a charity asylum; we may fill the land with hospitals, but the misery of man will still continue to exist until man's character changes.

    I guess education is the only tool which can be used to form and reform the character of man. We are very much intangled watching the miseries rather than thinking about its solution.

    ReplyDelete
  21. You did your best for the young girl and she was 16years old so you could not force her to stay. It was her low life scumbag mother who is to blame along with the rest of the "family". A sad tale. Nick in London

    ReplyDelete
  22. Sunitha, eu não conservo uma imagem ingênua da vida, mas posso dizer que vou torcer para seus resgates! Quero, espero e angustiada desejo que você obtenha exito em sua caminhada. Como cristã e como mulher acredito que a dignidade e respeito. Que seu abrigo ofereça amor. Abraços, Marilia Montiel.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Death is but release and in Shahida's case it was release from her suffering at the human level. You, Sunitha are an inspiration.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Hi Ma'am, I reached your blog while on pursuit to contact you for a possible alliance with the Young India Fellowship Program. I have seen your TED Talk and believe in spreading word on your work and the issue to 100 of the brightest minds in the country, The Young India Fellows. Do get back if you would be interested. @ soumit.saha@yifp.in

    ReplyDelete
  25. God! This must be terribly painful for you to face! But you didnt make any mistake in sending her back to her mother.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Dear Sunita Madam
    Your blog frustrated me that our society is such type. You are real heroine of our society. I think ,first of all it requires to change mind setup. Our society is male dominating. I think that girls and women are also exploited by their own family. I salute your endevor
    madam.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hi Sunitha,

    You have done a lot for Shaheda and Sahera. Could you have done more? It was their free will to move back home. You did all you could. I am sure that Shaheda and Sahera were thankful to you for giving some meaning to their life and making their existence worthwhile.

    You did great!

    ReplyDelete
  28. this is the very first blog that i read of yours. I cannot explain how heart breaking this is is to read. But life is not fair, this world is a terrible place and you did not make it this way. You are doing much more than anyone else to make it a better place and that counts a lot.

    I hope you do not feel disappointed, please keep doing what you are doing. You cannot save everyone, accept that and continue what you are doing.

    ReplyDelete
  29. maam.......its a true story........but in that your mistake is also there....if u have thinked twice...such a tragedy will not happen....but we all consider it as an act of fate....but not of reality.....iam i right?.....then,,,,everyone knows only to read anything then,,crying....or saying that its an act of fate....firstly....we must change that attitude.....maam....all r trying to make u happy....but iam sayin the truth that....again, like this...a tragedy should not happened.....iam not saying wrong to anyone....if i said anything...wrong...plse forgive and a mind saving sorry..........

    ReplyDelete
  30. This is so sad. I pray for the girls sold into prostitution. I hope their "uncles" and even aunts get severe punishment. Let no girl ever lose her innocence again. We need to figure out how to stop it and give the children their lives back.

    ReplyDelete
  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Dear Sunita. I love you so much because you've inspired me ever since your TEDtalk. I am so sorry that this happened. I feel a longer follow up program should be in place for such cases but I do not know how possible is this, given the large scale of efforts you put in and the number of people you work with. I don't know what is your bandwidth. Please dont hold yourself guilty for this. You did all that you could. You gave this little girl and her sister - happiness! remember that please. I'm sure, had you known that she was begging outside the dargah, you would have been there for her and taken her back. I feelit and you know it. Maybe the next time you let go of a person, you should remind the families that you will always be there for their child if they wish to abandon them, that they should call you if they wish to abandon. That's all I can say but please dont hold yourself guilty.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Mam, Felt very bad listening this incident.Those flesh eaters who are responsible to this will also die similar to this. why this much of brothels running in our country?? Do poverty a reason for this? Why this much demand for brothels?? Why these people considering women only as a sexual device? they too are human beings.. why dont a man who rapes a women think how it feels if another person does the same to him?? I dont know whether god exists or not but if such a thing exists then my prayer is to remove this sexual pleasure from this human world and make it only for reproductive purpose.. only solution for this..

    ReplyDelete
  34. speachless and tears in my eyes

    ReplyDelete
  35. Hi Sunitha,


    I have been following your blog for quite a long time, and its really amazing to see the amount of efforts you are taking to fight sex trafficking and that too mainly infants. Highly appreciate this effort of yours and pray to good to give you more courage and strength to save many such lives in days to come.


    Regards

    ReplyDelete
  36. few things are out of our control. whatever you have done had a god intention. please don't be guilty, u r doing great job entirely different madam

    ReplyDelete
  37. I do not understand what social repercussions this mother was afraid of. As a mother, my child's life would be my only goal. If I have lost her, the society cannot give her back to me. I have no life if I have lost my child. One thing that should be taught to all women and I try to follow and teach my child: "What other people think of you is none of your business!"

    ReplyDelete