At 28 years old, Laila was a wife and a mother of two. At 28 years old, Laila was also uneducated, and her family was very poor. Due to severe droughts, their agrarian community suffered great loss. Driven out of their village and desperate for money, Laila’s family was in dire need of work. Around this time, they met a travel agent who promised her a job as a house servant in Kuwait. The family received a high-interest loan of 100,000 rupee (about $1500), and Laila was taken 3,000 miles away from home.
The travel agent had lied. Laila had been sold to a man for twice as much as her family received. From the first day she arrived, Laila was physically, mentally, and sexually abused and exploited by the man and his friends. She endured this torture for six months before she was rescued by people from her village. Being home did not solve all of her problems, though. Their high-interest loan had now doubled, her and her husband’s health deteriorated, and they had no money to even begin paying back the loan that had brought humiliation and injustice to Laila.
All hope was not lost. Literacy classes came to Laila’s village, and she was encouraged by the teacher to join. Soon Laila learned how to read, write, and count money. Laila was now able to have a steady job and work for daily wages. She also joined a self-help group where she applied for a government grant that helped her family start a business. She used this money to buy 5 goats, and her husband became a goat herder. This business meant that they could sell milk from the females and sell the males with other herders or for meat. One male goat will sell for a month’s worth of living expenses! This business also meant that Laila could stay close to home and create a better life for herself and her family.
Today, Laila is 40 years old and is happy. Her and her husband have managed to pay off their loans and their family is healthy. Without literacy, many women share Laila’s story. They accept high-interest loans that they are often unable to pay back, they become indentured servants to members of the upper caste or men far away from their homes. With literacy, women like Laila gain a sense of independence, and they are able to provide, both with finances and nurturing, for their family, making strides to break the cycle of poverty.
Names and images have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.