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  • Writer's pictureChristina de Jong

Prema's Story

India is much in the news and in all our thoughts as Covid cases and fatalities skyrocket.

For Basis, this crisis means that the two Basis Learning Centres in Bangalore that we set up in March and April now wait quietly for action.

The health and safety of our partner staff and the nearly 40 women and children now registered for our program are our top priority. Please keep them in your hearts and minds, and, as we begin to introduce them to you, take the opportunity to share their stories!

In meeting some of our new program participants, we realized anew how COVID is slamming on the brakes for people who have already experienced almost nothing but brakes in their lives.

Family looking at camera and smiling next to a blue door and orange wall.

Prema, 28, lives with her husband Christy and their two children in a two-room home close to our new Basis Learning Centre for women in Bangalore.

Prema and her husband were educated until the 5th and 4th grade, respectively. They married when Prema was 17. Her husband, now a painter, has worked since the age of 15, and she herself works as a maid in four households, contributing about $100/month to their family’s income. Their two children, ages 11 & 8, are doing their best to learn at home via WhatsApp, as schools are currently closed due to COVID.

Prema dreams of becoming digitally literate and learning Microsoft Office in order to improve her education and employment prospects, increase her salary, and assist with the education of their children.

Prema’s story sounded similar to the story of other women we met - until she showed us a curious photo, behind which was hidden the reason her education was so abruptly ended.

damaged old photograph of woman sitting and hugging two standing young girls. Background is picture of a palm beach

When Prema was a baby her mother sold her in exchange for a piece of property. Her younger sister was also sold. Priscilla, pictured in the photo, raised Prema (right) and five other children as her own, and indeed, Prema believed Priscilla was her mother. Priscilla also provided Prema with English medium education.

One day, when Prema was 11, her mother came back and claimed her. It seems she realized she would benefit more from Prema working and generating income. She did put Prema in Kannada school for four months, but then took her out and put her to work babysitting for middle class families.

And so it was that Prema’s education stopped at fifth standard. Yet Prema still dreams of continuing her education, and wishes she could go into healthcare.

We are so grateful to have two strong local partners in Bangalore who will run our Basis Learning Centres day-to-day, and who will support Prema and our other program participants with mentoring and education/career guidance!

When our Basis Learning Centre for women can safely open its doors, we know Prema will be one of the first to cross the threshold.

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