(Patna) “I am a housewife. My husband works in Delhi and I live here with my mother. I have three sons; one is good in studies while the other two are mischievous.”

(Patna) “I work in a girls’ hostel. My daughter is 12 years old and is intellectually disabled. I try to keep her as comfortable as possible. Until I am alive I will also keep providing her with knowledge. I have a son too. My husband died a long time ago. It is very difficult to manage an entire family on one woman’s salary. Sometimes I do feel helpless but there is no option.” 

(Patna) “I go to school and I study A, B, C, D and tables in Maths. We are four friends – Anu, Nibha, Rakhi and me. I go to school every day. After I come back, I have lunch, study for a bit and then play. I want to become a teacher.”  

(Patna) “I also work as a domestic help. I have studied till Standard 8. I couldn’t study further as there was no time. My parents are taking care of all of my wedding preparations. I did ask my fiancé to reconsider the amount asked in the proposal but he said that it is not in his hands. I feel very unhappy when I see that my mother and everyone in the family is worried. Though I am worried as well, I feel a little excited too. My fiancé is nice and has told me that he will keep me well.” (2/2)

(Patna) “I am a domestic help. I am worried about my daughter’s wedding. I am trying to arrange Rs. 5 lakhs for her wedding. I am giving Rs. 1.5 lakhs cash, 30 grams of gold, one motorcycle, and other household goods like a cooler, some furniture and utensils. The boy’s family seemed nice, and so we agreed to their proposal. I gave cash and household items at my older daughter’s wedding also but I didn’t take anything in my son’s wedding. The date of the wedding is approaching and I have not managed to arrange any money so far. I keep thinking about it. I have left everything to God now.” (1/2)

(Patna) “I am a lawyer by profession but I am not practicing right now. I took a break after five years of practice and went to Cambridge University (U.K.) for my Masters degree in law. Recently I started travelling a lot within India and in neighbouring countries; it is very challenging to explain to people why I like to travel so much. If a girl travels alone in our country, it raises a lot of stereotypical questions such as ‘how can a girl travel solo in India?’. I have traveled alone in Paris and some do not consider it a very safe city. So if you can manage alone in cities abroad, then I think you can manage here too.”

(Patna) I am a hair dresser and I have been working for the past 13 years now. I started working after class 10 in a salon. I told myself: ‘it is alright, there are a lot of people who have to work out of necessity and my family needed my support’. At that point in time, it was very challenging to grow in this profession in Patna as there was no training institute or centre. I also realized there were a lot of prejudices against this profession. Working in a salon meant that you were perceived to be unable do anything else in life and were also viewed to be part of a prostitution racket. There was no respect. But gradually, when I started going to big cities and abroad for trainings, I realized there was a lot of scope in this profession. I also questioned if this was such a low level job, then how come doctors, engineers and scientists are involved and creating beauty products and equipment. 
After I got married, I thought I might have to give up my work, but my husband was very supportive. He said that I had worked hard to achieve this and so if I want to continue then he was there to support me.
Ten years ago I started this salon in a space of just 350 square feet. In 10 years you can see the growth – now there are 10 salons and 125 employees and I am managing all of them. I have my salons in other cities as well.

I hire women from poor families who are unskilled and uneducated and have no means to support their families or have no support from the families. I train them for this job and see them doing well in their career and in life. I also realised that women are very dedicated to their work. In many cases, men earn livelihoods but women not only earn but also look after their family and home. There are some women who get up at 4-5 am in the morning, send their children to school, cook for everyone at home, go for work from 10am to 8pm and finally get back home around 9 pm. It is very challenging for them but they still enjoy their work. Gradually, the career scope has increased for them with better salaries and better training. My salon is at the 4th position in the entire eastern region in India, which also includes big salons in Kolkata. This is a big deal in Patna too. I hope to go even further.

(Patna) “I have been working as a beautician for the last six years. When my daughter was two years old, she fell down and hurt her right eye. She cannot see from that eye anymore. I spent a lot of money on her checkups, but the doctors told me that her eye has to be operated upon. I don’t have enough money for that operation. She likes studying and I am sending her to a private school.”

(Patna) “I started working in 1992 on issues related to violence against women in Bihar. The community in which my colleagues and I started working had a number of child rape cases but no one ever reported those to the police as they were scared of the local goons. We started creating awareness about laws made for women through street plays, workshops and training. In these training women started talking about incidents of rape of little girls. We worked in the community for years and built trust. Gradually, people came forward with their cases, and we got FIRs registered and followed the cases in court. Most of the cases that we received were of dalit women and children.   
We also worked on issues related to dayan pratha (witchcraft). In one of the most appalling cases, a woman was declared to be a witch because of a boy who she had warned not to climb up on a tree had fallen down and died. She was then brutally raped by 5 men at her home and sexually assaulted with a stick. The police refused to register a complaint as one of the accused was the Mukhiya’s (village head) son and the officials feared that they would lose their job if they registered an FIR. I intervened and got the FIR registered, brought the woman to Patna where she was treated as she had developed internal infections. Now she is healthy. Unfortunately, in most cases the women themselves start believing that they are a dayan (witch). We have honoured many women affected by the dayan pratha so that they feel part of the community.
Sometimes I also get disheartened, especially when even after a lot of struggle and running around, no action is taken. During the course of many cases, people have warned me, threatened me, and even tried to lure me with political positions but I have always been indifferent to the political gambit and determined to get justice.

The most important thing today to prevent violence against women is to spread awareness of the laws amongst girls, their families, friends and relatives.”