Sakina’s future hangs in the balance. I first met her in Kolkata in May 2022. Tiljala SHED staff brought her to my attention at a meeting of all the evening class students at the Mir Meher Ali Lane centre in Tangra. What struck me first was how thin she is.
Two and a half years ago Sakina’s little family was poor but complete. Her father worked in a factory and her mother was a maidservant. She had a brother and a sister and all 3 attended school.
Then her father died. Sakina decided to drop out of school so that she could help at home – even though she was about to sit her class X board exams. We persuaded her to return to her studies but then her mother fell sick. When I visited last May, Sakina’s mother was bedridden in their hut with terrible breathing difficulties. She had stopped work and Sakina was once again out of school so she could take on her mother’s work. Finding money for medicines was impossible and they depended on food rations from Tiljala SHED.
I visited the family again in January and it was clear that the mother was seriously ill. Sakina was thinner than ever and very distressed. She had decided to return to education and sit her class XI exams, thanks to food rations and contributions for medicines from Tiljala SHED.
Then in February 2023 her mother died. Sakina is orphaned, aged 18, malnourished and destitute. The hut she and her family lived in is in need of repair. Her sister has become a maidservant (the most exploitative underpaid work) and her brother is able to contribute just a small sum out of his wages. It is Sakina’s education that will make the difference.
Tiljala SHED will continue to provide Sakina with encouragement, support and advice. She’ll receive food rations as long as she needs them and will continue to attend school and the Tiljala SHED evening classes. We are actively looking for vocational training so that she can move into good paid work as soon as she completes her schooling. But this comes at a price. You can save a girl like Sakina from a life of drudgery. £40 a month makes the difference between staying in education or training and being forced into labour.
To provide educational support for a girl like Sakina…..