“I never thought that I would be independent one day. With a salary, you earn dignity”, says Meenakshi, who is working in the jute workshop of Integrated Development Trust (IDT) in Bathalapalli, Anantapur.
Meenakshi , resident of Narasapuram, a village in Andhra Pradesh was diagnosed with polio at the age of one. She was always dependent on someone to take her to school. Her father would take her on his bike and her mother in her arms. “Though my family supported me at all times, some people in the village would put me down and say things like ‘You don’t have legs so you won’t be able to survive’,” recalls Meenakshi.
She dropped out of school in fourth grade as she felt she was a burden on her parents. However, her teacher and her friends tried to convince her to continue with her studies.
Through IDT which is a member of the World Fair Trade Organisation and Fair Trade Forum India, she was offered the possibility to learn a trade and join a team of artisans. From the time she started working, she has managed to reconnect with the people from her village who now invite her to social gatherings in the community. She makes sure she visits her mother at least once a month. Her father, unfortunately, passed away 10 years ago.
With a job, her life has been injected with hope and purpose. “Not only am I an independent woman but I also have another family”, explains Meenakshi who has established a relationship with her colleagues that goes beyond work. “We help each other a lot and we all like listening to music”, she adds.
Her salary gives her pride and confidence for the future. She dreams of owning a shop in the future. “I am capable of helping my family. Thanks to the workshop, I learnt to express myself without putting my head down,” she says proudly.
Text: Harshitha Pudota