“Growing up I was taught that education is for the rich and survival is for the poor”.- Asha Graduate Rubina
Good evening Honourable guests, Dr. Kiran, Asha Family, and all my dear friends. My name is Rubina and I am currently doing my Masters in Political Science from one of India‘s top universities, University of Delhi.
I still remember those days when I lived with my family in Thokar No. 8 slum in Laxmi Nagar. While I was growing up, survival was the only important thing in our everyday life. We did not have electricity, water, toilet and basic facilities. But at least we had our own hut. I come from a very orthodox Muslim family and my father is a labourer. His income was never enough for our survival. Many times we have gone to sleep on empty stomach. My mother used to work in the fields to pluck flowers and was earning ten Rupees per bag. With that money, she bought milk and some food for the children to take away our hunger.
Due to poverty, my mother lost her son when he was only 2 year old.
While I was growing up, we had no playground in the slum. I played with my friends on the roads of Laxmi Nagar.
In 2006, the whole of India was celebrating the happiness of having the Commonwealth Games in India for the first time. But we were very sad because the Government demolished our home to beautify Delhi. We lost everything. We were forced to live on the roads for four months. I still remember that when my house was demolished, we slept on the floor where my house once existed. That night we all slept on an empty stomach. In the morning, the police came again and threw our belongings out, forcing us to go away. The whole slum was then set on fire.
During the most difficult time of our life, not a single government official or anybody else helped us except for Dr. Kiran and the Asha Family. She met many senior politicians and faced many struggles along with us so that we could have a roof over our head.
Finally, after four months, our family got a small plot of land in a place called Savda. In the beginning, this was just a wasteland and we began our life again with many difficulties. But Asha helped us to get a loan to build our houses, bank branch, school, bus stop, water, medical facilities, business loans, and many other things. Savda is now a beautiful colony and I am happy that I have my own home.
Growing up I was taught that education is for the rich and survival is for the poor.
Being a Muslim girl, I faced too much opposition from my family and my community. In spite of all the problems, I scored 80% in my class 12 boards and was the topper in my whole community.
Sweeta ma’m tried so hard to convince my family to send me to college. At last they were convinced only because of her. I am the first person to go to college in my entire family and community.
I was excited to go to college. But the college environment was very challenging. I saw my friends coming in cars, while I travelled many kilometers on the bus.
I am proud to say that I was the class topper in the final semester of my course and I graduated with an Honours in Political Science with a first division, in the year 2016.
I was now determined to do a Masters in Political Science. I secured a seat at Delhi University in the regular Master’s programme. Anyone who is familiar with the admission process will tell you how difficult this is.
But I had no money.
I still remember the day when I met Dr. Kiran and she said that your education will never stop because of money. That day she handed me a cheque and two sets of clothes to begin my master’s programme.
I am now in my Final semester and my dream is to do my Ph.D. and to be called Dr. Rubina one day.
My internship with the New Zealand High Commission was an amazing experience. The Deputy High Commissioner Suzanna ma’m taught me a lot during my internship. Suzanna ma’m I will always be grateful to you for playing such an important role in my life.
Today I am an Asha Ambassador, and I teach and mentor many girls and women in my community. My entire journey with Asha has not only transformed me but has also given me the passion to transform my community. The wonderful Asha values I have learned are making me a happy and a good person.
In the end, I want to thank from the bottom of my heart, Dr. Kiran, Sweeta ma’m, Asha volunteer Ken Sir who taught me English, and all Asha friends and supporters for changing my life.
Thank you so much.