Gaining respect and dignity - Archana Devi

Archana Devi, 26 years of age, is the resident of Sujanpur village in Fatehpur District, Uttar Pradesh State and is unmarried. She lost her sight completely at the tender age of 3. She belonged to an extremely poor family. So, disability and poverty coupled with gender bias made her life miserable. She was totally ignored by the parents, father being a poor labourer. She was not sent to any school and was kept hidden within the confines of their hut.

She was immensely depressed and it is said that she even tried to commit suicide at the age of 17. Our field worker met Archana about 2 years back. Initially, the first obstacle was the family itself and their non-accepting attitude. So, the field worker undertook the twin tasks of counseling the parents as well as the girl. Initially, the parents would scoff at the very idea that their blind daughter could function independently. The neighbours, too, made fun of the field staff on the idea of imparting training to the girl.

As the first step, then, the family and the girl were introduced to a successful young blind lady by bringing her over to the village. Nearly everyone was left awe-struck on seeing how independently and effectively this young blind lady could function. Could their daughter do like-wise-- the parents began to hope. From thereon, the period of training commenced. Archana Devi was imparted skills in looking after herself, doing household chores and getting about on her own with a white cane. With the regaining of self-confidence as a result of the acquisition of skills, Archana Devi was becoming a totally different person.

She was now wanting to reach out and gain some economic independence as well. So, our project staff provided to her Rs. 12,000 as micro-finance with which she set up a small shop at her own home. She was able to demonstrate remarkable skill in the sale of small items and to establish liaison with the community. Soon, her shop started doing good business. Moving on, this courageous woman decided to augment her income. She was helped to purchase goats and do some poultry farming as well by keeping a few birds. Now she is totally independent economically and is even supporting her ageing parents. She has also taken the unique initiative of forming a self-help group along with other disabled persons, which enables them to get further credit from banks and also market and expand their work. She is, in fact, now heading the group and guiding others.

Archana is now commanding great respect and recognition not only from her siblings and parents, but also her neighbours and village-folk. She is cited as an example for others.