Gulnaz: Empowering herself and her community

Gulnaz: Empowering herself and her community

Born into a family of 7 children, Gulnaz’s parents had a tough time making ends meet. Migrators from the state of Uttar Pradesh, her parents chose to settle down in Chanderpuri slum community about 3 decades ago. Gulnaz’s father did odd jobs to make a meagre amount of Rs.200 (2.82 USD/ 2.3 £) a day. He was an alcoholic and work was unstable. ‘We had no money. We ate only one meal of roti and raw onion. If we ate one meal, we had no hope we would eat another.’ says Gulnaz. When Gulnaz was 12 years old, her mother fell very ill. She had a fall and fractured her right leg which resulted in deformity. With their mother bedridden, Gulnaz and her sisters took odd jobs and worked around the clock to provide for the family. Family responsibilities and low income overburdened Gulnaz tremendously. She was not able to continue her education.

When she turned 14, she got married to a man in her neighbourhood. He was a good man, but she soon realized that he had a circle of friends known for robberies. With good reason, the Police would visit her house regularly to keep a check on her husband. This was traumatic for young Gulnaz as she lived in fear that her husband could be arrested at any time. As time passed, untimely visits of the police became very normal. Soon, Gulnaaz was a mother of 3 children.

In the year 2007, Gulnaz became actively associated with Asha and a member of the Women’s Association. As a member, she participated in regular visits to the political representative of her slum. She learnt about vaccination and assisted the Asha CHV in her community. She also gained information about diseases such as Tuberculosis, Dengue, etc and the importance of Children and Women health care. Asha’s values helped Gulnaz empower herself to know her rights. At times when her husband physically assaulted her, she held her ground and resisted.

She instead counselled and guided him. With Gulnaz’s support and guidance, her husband became a changed man. He now has a steady job and earns Rs.1000 (14 USD/ 11 £) a week. Today the police do not check on Gulnaz’s husband. Instead, Gulnaz regularly visits the police station for issues related to the security of her slum community.

The realization of her own loss of education enabled Gulnaz to make sure that all her children were enrolled in schools near the slum. ‘Due to unfortunate circumstances I was not able to pursue an education, I regret that. I want my children to study as much as they want.’ Says Gulnaz.

Today Gulnaz is an empowered and confident woman who also goes by the nickname ‘Full power lady’ within her slum community. She works hard to reach every member within her community to keep them updated about their rights.

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