Aiesha: Rising Above Adversity

In the village of Ghagas, there lives an extraordinary woman by the name of Aiesha. Aiesha has learned how to make the best of even the most difficult circumstances. She treasures her values and has deep faith in humanity, despite having lived a life fraught with danger, desperation, and sadness.

Aiesha’s family was poor. She was the fourth born out of nine children. Her parents were landless agricultural laborers. She grew up in a small, cramped house and learned from an early age to make the most of her family’s limited resources. When she was quite little, she took on the responsibility of managing the household and looking after her younger siblings. She was unable to get an education or have a normal childhood.

Despite her hardships, Aiesha never resigned herself to fate and always hoped for a better life. Sehgal Foundation began offering a Life Skills Education (LSE) course in her village. Aiesha jumped at the opportunity to attend, recognizing that the skills she’d learn could improve her quality of life.

When she began the course, Aiesha developed a new sense of purpose. She began to realize that her new skills could also help her entire family. She was the first in her family to become literate. She could read and write fluently, which was rare for adolescent girls in the region of Mewat, Haryana, India where she lived. She also learned how to stitch clothes for herself and her family. Things were finally starting to look better; the future seemed brighter.

Not before long, Aiesha’s hopes and aspirations of education and independence were dashed. Aiesha was 16 years old and her parents arranged for her to marry a young man from a nearby village. It is customary for women in Mewat to marry at this age. Her parents believed that marriage would provide happiness and comfort in way that education never could.

Aiesha felt everything that she held dear slipping away. After marriage, she would have to discontinue her education and would no longer be able to build the future she wanted. She also felt apprehensive about marrying someone that she did not know. Marriage at a young age forces women to assume subordinate roles in their households. Aiesha could not do anything to get out of the marriage.

Two weeks into the marriage, Aiesha discovered her husband was mentally ill. He would frequently abuse her during violent outbursts. Shortly after discovering her husband’s mental illness, Aisha’s father-in-law began eliciting sex from her. Aiesha became a battered woman and felt she had no one to turn to. She couldn’t comprehend what she had done to deserve such a painful life.

After a while, Aiesha’s father-in-law’s sexual advances became too frequent. She summoned up the courage to tell her husband. He did not believe her and instead beat her up and sent her home to her parents. Initially, Aiesha’s parents disapproved of her return. But after talking with her in-laws, they came to realize that the marriage was a mistake on their part. They stood by her and supported her at home. Aiesha felt tremendous relief to be free from the nightmare that her life had become.

Determined to rise above adversity, Aiesha resumed her Life Skills classes. She began to stitch clothes in order to become financially independent. After hard work, she was offered a position as a substitute teacher in the LSE center. Her commitment to and enthusiasm for her work proved fruitful. Over time, she was given the opportunity to manage three LSE centers. She took up a formal education, and has now managed to pass her metric level examinations through the National Open School.

Four years after her first marriage, Aiesha remarried. She now lives happily with her husband and in-laws. She runs a tailoring enterprise and is pursuing her long cherished dreams. Through the LSE center, Aiesha was able to develop the skills necessary to make her dreams a reality.

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