A great comeback
During my last visit to Agni-Raksha, an NGO in Bengaluru, which works for the protection of burn survivors, especially women and children from economically backward communities, there was so much joy between the staff and myself at seeing one another again. Usha was someone that I was really looking forward to connect with again. Usha has been on staff with Agni Raksha for 12 years. She is one of their longest employees and works with a deep passion and competence. I accompanied her to do home visits for some of the patients who had suffered burns. I watched with amazement as she spoke tenderly to them while changing their dressings. She has one of the largest smiles and a huge heart. On the ride back to the centre, she told me of her personal story. Usha had a hard childhood, full of painful words and physical abuse by her father. At the young age of 14 years old, she decided her life was no longer worth living and attempted to end her life by pouring acid on herself. Forty percent of her body was burned, and she spent three months in the hospital recovering.
Once released from the hospital, the shame and rejection she felt internally and from society pushed her into further isolation. She spent her days hidden at home and refused to leave. Neighbouring teens offered her food like a dog; her life was full of despair.
One day, she took the incredibly brave step to seek out help. She came to Agni Raksha in search of a community. After going through counselling and some of their other support services, she was hired by them and learned to change dressings. Now, their Director says that Usha is the best at the job. She looked at Dr Prema, one of the Founders, living her life as a single woman and finding deep purpose in dedicating her life to serving others, Usha decided she wanted to do that too. She laughed as she told me she does not like to be away from the office for the weekends; she misses the patients. She is grateful for her work and that she can encourage them from a place of understanding since she was once where they are. Usha embodies compassion and joy and pours her life out to serve others.
“Struggle made me strong”
Dr Prema Dhanraj, co-Founder of Agni Raksha, writes:
“You don’t know what you can achieve until you try it! I overcame every obstacle I faced and have proved to the world that struggles make us strong and content. Beauty is an asset which is great! But you really don’t need it to follow your dreams.
- Believe in yourself
- Love yourself for what you are
- Don’t underestimate your potential and your worth
- Tap into your talents and shine in life
Every human being’s experience is unique. Being a woman makes it even more so as she has to balance home, work and family. What I have experienced, my reactions to various situations, and my learning curve are my very own. In like manner each woman will have to adapt to her exclusive role in society.
Each of us is capable and able to tap the resources within us.
In all strata of society, I have sadly observed that women mostly aren’t respected. There are moments of despair and frustration when people walk all over us but this should not make us give up on ourselves. That is the moment to gather courage and with dignity, rise above it.
Once we know our worth, there is absolutely no need to look back. Each event in our lives will be a step toward a better and stronger self. If one surely and steadily starts believing in one, tomorrow will have an easier path to follow. Never underestimate the future, it may be tougher but by then you would have learnt how to cope.
Learn to say No
At times women are treated as second gender and suppressed and this begins at home. It is important to teach our girl children that they are also people who should be treated with respect and that they have every right to lead a dignified life. We do not teach our children, especially girls, to say a proper NO. I think it starts from there. Since there is always a pressure to say YES even if they are not prepared, it goes a long way in “adjusting to circumstances” for every reason and situation.
Our duty is to nurture and guide women so that they become independent and are able to take a decision about their life than always seeking support from men folk to help them. Women should have the knowledge of the laws of the country so that they are able to protect themselves. That’s one reason why we have initiated legal awareness programmes so that women understand that they have all rights and when it is at stake they can approach for remedy. Many of the cases we have handled have shown that girl children are not encouraged in education. It is important that girls educate themselves, build their skills and keep themselves updated with the latest knowledge so that they are able to take control of their lives.
Overflow with hope
A divine transformation and transaction will take place when you meet with the Saviour – the Lord Jesus Christ.
“The Samaritan woman grasped what He said with fervour that came from an awareness of her real need. The transaction was fascinating. She has come with a bucket. He sent her back with a spring of living water. She had come as a reject. He sent her back being accepted by God Himself. She came wounded. He sent her back whole. She came laden with questions. He sent her back as a source for answers. She came living a life of quiet desperation. She ran back overflowing with hope. The disciples missed it all. It was lunchtime for them.”
― Ravi Zacharias, Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message
Operations Manager and Senior Project Analyst for Wellspring International, RZIM.