How to turn your adversity into prosperity: Nazma will tell you how

Married at an early age of 13, Nazma was sent back to her parent’s home in Rasoolpanah village, in Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh, by her husband. This was after two months of marriage as he suspected she had some disease as she was thin and anaemic. “When I came back home, I faced a lot of problems.  I had just one set of clothes with me. I used to wash them and wear it every day,” says Nazma. “In my village, the stigma associated with divorce was so strong that my brothers didn’t want me in the house,” added Nazma. While the stigma of being a divorced woman weighed heavily on her, having become an unwelcome member of the family plagued her peace as her brothers’ financial condition barely provided enough to secure two meals a day. This continued for several years.

After a few years, Nazma was forced to leave her parental home, and she made a temporary shed with wooden logs and a plastic sheet on the Gram Panchayat land. The Panchayat authorities, unlike her brothers, had compassion on her and didn’t evict her from her unauthorised house. Nazma worked as a daily wage labourer to earn her living. She never complained about the meagre meal she ate. “I earned it myself, without depending on anyone. And that gave me the satisfaction,’’ she says.

In 2013, when The Leprosy Mission Trust India’s WEALTH project (a community empowerment project working with marginalised women in Uttar Pradesh) started an adult literacy class in her village, Nazma grabbed the opportunity. “I wanted to live with dignity, so even when others made fun of me for joining the literacy class, I carried on with it.” When TLMTI formed a self-help group (SHG) in the village, she joined the group.

In 2015, Nazma took a loan of Rs 1,000 from the SHG and bought a goat.  Her hard work paid off, and she started earning profits. With the money earned, she expanded her small enterprise and paid off the loan she had taken from the SHG. As the profits increased, Nazma leased a piece of land for farming, and she had enough money to buy good quality seeds and manure. The yield gives her a decent profit. Today, Nazma earns a handsome income from goat rearing and farming.

Sharing her journey with TLMTI, Nazma says, “I never took care of my hygiene. But there has been a change since my association with TLMTI. Now I am aware of the importance of good hygiene. I go out with other women in the group and solve issues of domestic violence. I am not scared of police and I advocate for the cause of other women like me. There used to be much tension between religious groups in my village. Now, we live together as a tight-knit community. There are many persons affected by leprosy here. We sensitised the village to leprosy. There is a discernible reduction in leprosy-related discrimination in the village.”

Being financially savvy has helped Nazma to be in control of her investments. She purchased a land for one lakh rupees to construct a house. She has taken responsibility of her nephew, and twice contributed Rs 10,000 for weddings in the family.  Over the years, her relationship with her brothers improved and she is today consulted for most family decisions.

Nazma is the president of the SHG group. The loans are sanctioned in consent with her approval. She also ensures that women are attending the meetings regularly. “Nazma has benefited from our programme because of her hard work and dedication. She was regular with her literacy class and SHG meetings,” says Mahesh, WEALTH project’s programme implementation facilitator.

Nazma is a role model to many in her village, especially the younger lot. “Nazma has taught us that nothing is impossible if you are persistent and determined and are willing to pay any price for success,” says one of them.