Saturday, April 29, 2017

Who Made My Clothes? Profile 5 of 6: Nirmala's Story

Name: Nirmala
Age: 40
Married: yes
Children: 3 girls (21, 18, 23), 1 boy (16)

Nirmala is a very hardworking mother of four nearly grownup children. She wakes up every morning at 6am, gets fresh and brooms and cleans the house before making tea and preparing the breakfast for the family. Afterwards she continues with the work in the household, cooks lunch and rushes to work. When she comes back she is expected to cook dinner and undertake any other chores her husband requires. That has been her life for the past 25 years or more.

“I don't know how old I was when I got married. I was a young girl, I can't remember it.”

Nirmala never went to school as her family couldn’t afford to send her and all 4 of her sisters. She grew up in a little village where it is even harder for poor families to provide education for their children. The family had just enough money to fund her two brothers to finishing their 8th grade. Nirmala was married to her husband at such a young age that she can't even remember it. Child marriages are unfortunately still a common practice in rural areas of India, for poorer families, marrying their daughters means one less hungry mouth to feed.

“He is not beating me every day. He only beats me when he doesn't get what he wants or because something doesn't work out for him. Then he is frustrated and on those days, he beats me.”

Nirmalas husband is a taxi driver and has a bad temper. She is a victim of domestic violence as are many women in India. As Nirmala can't read or write, she is dependent on her husband and has very little self-confidence. Nine years ago, her eldest daughter worked at Sambhali alongside going to school, but it was too much pressure for her and she asked Nirmala to take over her space at the trust. Nirmala was very happy about the opportunity but her husband didn't like the idea of her leaving the house. Eventually he agreed, possibly because of the second income and only because there are no men allowed in the centre.

“I was very scared when I hold scissors the first time, everything was new for me and I was scared to do something wrong.”

Nirmala enjoys sewing and her self-confidence has grown immensely since joining the trust. In the beginning, she was very shy and struggled to make friends with the other workers, but now she is very happy and enjoys teaching new women in the centre. Nirmala still wants to improve her skills and hopes to stay at Sambhali for many more years.

“I want all my children to finish their school and go to University. Education is very important and it will make them more confident and independent.”


For Nirmala as a loving mother the future of her children is the highest priority. She hopes that they'll all get the chance to go to University and find good jobs afterwards. If Nirmala would have one wish for herself, it would be to have her own shop one day where she can sell the clothes she makes.

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