Sayidda

...she dropped out of school, not because she lacked the intelligence or the interest, but because her father and elder brother objected to her continuing
her studies.

What about a job??? “That is a distant dream”, she says wistfully.
 

Sayidda is a forty-five-year-old housewife and mother of four who has been saving what little she can from her household expenses and husband’s salary to make a better life for her family. She has no formal education but can read enough Urdu to say her prayers. Sayidda was very shy about being interviewed and at first kept pointing at herself and asking, ‘me?” as if she could not believe we would want her opinion. Sayidda’s husband rents a tea stall and pulls in sixty to one hundred rupees a day if business is good. She wakes up at 6:00 am to say prayers and start her chores, works all day, and waits up until midnight for her husband to close up shop and come home.

Sayidda has been living in Nizamuddin for the past twenty years. She is a fundamentally optimistic woman and chooses to focus on the improvements that have been made in the neighborhood over the years, not on its current flaws. “Everything is good,” she says. “When we came, there was no electricity, no sewage. Now everyone has these things. I have no complaints.” When their daughter got married, she found it necessary to take loans from a moneylender at an exorbitant interest rate. And when she ran out of jewelry as collateral, the family mortgaged a room of their house. Now, they are forced to live with and pay utilities for the moneylender’s daughter who has moved into that room and is a constant, daily reminder of the family’s debts.

Sayidda still has one daughter left to marry off and is anxious about where the money will come from. Her experience with moneylenders has taught her that they are not a solution for emergencies, so when Jyoti came around explaining about the program, Sayidda decided it was time she start saving her own money for a better future. Sayidda has been a member of Samrat for five years and has taken three loans in that time: one for Ramadan, one for medicine when she was ill, and another for her husband’s tea stall. Saving was difficult at first, but when she saw the results of her hard work pay off, she felt great. “When I saved money, Ramadan was very good. And when I was sick, I got the medicine I needed,” she says. “I was able to do these things because I saved my own money. I didn’t have to go to moneylenders with their high interest.” She is proud that she was able to help her husband out when his tea stall was short on cash. “This is because of my savings,” she pointed out to him.

Sayidda is turning her life around slowly, and cannot wait to be able to pay off her debts, reclaim her room from the moneylender’s daughter, and get her household back in order. Sayidda’s husband is earning less than he used to and the family is still heavily in debt. Still, she is optimistic. “One day, we will pay off that loan. We have at least two good meals a day and we don’t have to beg,” she says. Her son keeps telling her not to worry so much about the loans. “God will help us,” he reminds her.

Sayidda believes that Samrat has made her life and the lives of all the women in the community better. “There is so much peace and prosperity among the women,” Sayidda says. “They are more independent. They used to think before doing something, but now that they are saving, they can do whatever they want. If they want jewelry, they can do it on their own!” The shy Sayidda at the beginning of the interview is gone. She smiles and says that she believes that the women are all happier with saving accounts because “we finally have something that’s all our own.”

Asiya AsifAshida Devkali FirozGulshanHasbul Hussain Mobina Noorjhan RehanaSayidda ShahidaSheelaZakir

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