Case Studies

The woman who fought and succeeded against all odds

Alcoholism is rampant in Karaikal district because of the availability of cheap liquor, and many have lost their lives as a consequence. Government owned liquor shops and local arrack shops are the main culprits, leaving many families destitute. Poor families majorly face the brunt in this issue, since majority of men addicted to alcohol come from such families.

In the Municipal Solid Waste Management (MSWM) project in Karaikal Municipality, around 40 widows, whose lives were affected due to alcoholism, work as Green Friends.Andal’s (Green Friend) life is one such story.

Not long ago, Andal, a mother of three girl children in the city of Karaikal, was facing deprivation from basic material needs and comforts one would expect to possess in the current milieu. Like many people in our country, Andal faced a similar plight every day; to make ends meet.

When her husband passed away back in 2001 due to alcoholism, she was left dejected but with a huge responsibility on her shoulders – to take care of her children and a debt of Rs. 5 lakhs. Her eldest daughter was 6 then and the youngest daughter was a toddler. Being a mother per se is a huge responsibility, and to be the breadwinner of the family all of a sudden pushed her against the wall. Looking at her three beautiful children, she decided to fight the situation for the sake of her family.

Coming from the Irular community, one of the most ostracized and discriminated community in the country, finding a livelihood proved to be a gruesome task. Andal started with a petty road side eatery, selling ‘idlis’ and eked a livelihood out of it. But it was not sufficient to run the family. After 7 years of running the eatery, she acquired a job in the housekeeping department in a reputed medical hospital in the locality. She expected that a change in job would bring a change in fortune. Contrarily, the meager amount of Rs. 4000 per month as housekeeper did not even help her family’s sustenance. Even worse, was her work schedule at the hospital that kept her away from the children most of the time. A 12 hour routine every day and a mediocre salary added a lot of stress both on her and the family. But with no other option left, she stuck to the job for almost a decade to keep running the family.

When Hand in Hand Inclusive Development and Services started the Municipal Solid Waste Management project in 2016, they recruited people for sanitary work (Green Friend) in the Municipality. Learning about the opportunity, she joined the team immediately. The salary offer, which is more than double compared to her previous one made her relaxed and happy. The 8 hour work schedule and the work ethics in the project came as an added bonus, and she was finally able to spend some quality time with her children. Two of her daughters are into college now and she has negated most of her debt. In addition to that, she has helped 10 more widows from her community, who all lost their husbands due to alcoholism,by recommending them for jobs as Green Friends in the same project.

Andal now seems a satisfied woman and elated at the fact that she got to know her daughters better now and, is able to concentrate on their future. The hardship that she encountered for almost two decades and the strenuous effort to keep her family intact made her a stronger person, and may be finally she is reaping the reward after joining the Municipal Solid Waste Management team in Karaikal. All the widows in the project would assert the same too.