[Monday Motivation] Married at 12, this widow overcame abuse and started her own business
Whenever adversity strikes, it is always accompanied by fear, uncertainty and grief. But it is the reaction to difficulties that determines the course of the life to come.
For Joytan ByaOriginally from the village of Chunakhali in West Bengal, misfortune has always cast a shadow over his life.
At 12, she was forcibly married off to a man three times her age. Rather than playing with children her own age, she had to focus on household chores. Within a few years, she became a mother of two children.
Joytan Bya has faced hardships almost her entire life, which has led her to survive the most adverse situations.
She also had an acrimonious relationship with her in-laws, who viewed her and her children as liabilities. Her husband also beat her mercilessly, abused her often, and drove her out of the house. He never accepted children and was not interested in raising them.
“After eight years of marriage, I lost my husband. I had to take responsibility for my family and became the only member earning a living,” says Joytan. SocialStory.
Make ends meet
Left alone to care for her children, Joytan felt her life was shrouded in dark threatening clouds. She received no support from her in-laws, who did not want her to live with them after their son’s death. So, with her children, she moved into a small rented house – essentially a shelter made of stakes and tarps.
Soon she started working as a domestic helper in a wealthy house in her neighborhood. Leaving the children behind while she went to work was very difficult, so she took them everywhere she went.
With her meager income, Joytan says she tried to give her two children a secure childhood.
“Despite so many problems, I always wanted my two children to go to school, so I enrolled them in public schools nearby. Even though my income was low, I still tried to give them emotional and material support,” she says.
When her husband passed away, Joytan’s children were studying in grades 10 and 12. After a few days, her son, who had just finished his upper secondary exams, started working as a farm laborer. With their meager income, the family did their best to make ends meet.
The strict lockdown imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many villagers to lose their jobs, including Joytan’s son. With no other source of income, the family was on the verge of starvation.
When her daughter was in class 8, she was introduced to an initiative of Nishtha Trustwhich promotes education with the help of women’s groups, youth groups and local school children.
Nishtha Trust works in rural health, education and the environment. The non-profit organization uses its own curriculum and methodology to teach young girls in the villages. It sets up libraries, computer centres, anganwadis, cultural training programs and self-defense programs for young girls and women, as well as special initiatives to help the socio-economic advancement of single women.
Joytan was always aware of Nishtha and his activities since many of his neighbors were associated with Nishtha’s groups.
Today, Joytan is also part of a Self Help Group (SHG) called Unnati Udaan through which she was trained in entrepreneurship development and micro-enterprise skills training – a course run by the EdelGive Foundation.
Joytan urged her women’s group to support her with work rather than financially. However, there was little work available due to the lockdown. When the group suggested that she start a small business, Joytan chose to sell fish since her husband was involved in the trade and she was helping him. However, she also knew that the business needed significant capital to get started.
Joytan selling fish
“The group came up with a plan: they collected Rs 10-20 from the members to help me start the business. However, once I started the business, I had to face another obstacle: the “Vyapari Sangathan” or “the market association” did not allow me to continue my activity because I did not I wasn’t a member of the association,” explains Joytan.
When Joytan’s group learned of this, they contacted a local youth club near the market for help. While the club replied that it could not go against the association of the market, its members agreed to try to find a solution.
That same week, Joytan was accompanied by her group leader and some group members to a meeting at the youth club office with the secretary of the market association and the youth club members. The market association agreed to allow Joytan to continue in business, on the condition that she pay the monthly rent for space in the market. They also asked him to become a member of the association as soon as his business made good profits.
At present, Joytan is successfully running her business and can support her family with the help of her son. Both are working hard to improve their business and settle their debts. Joytan says that without the support of her group members, she and her children would not have been able to survive.
She is now planning to get involved in a new venture with the help of the EdelGive Foundation, which has supported her during difficult times.