A year ago two sisters started to look out for a job against their wish to get an education. When they finally found a job, they realized that it could be a passport to what they have always wanted to do in life.
Mahabunnissa is 21 years old and Karimunnissa is 23.
The sisters are from Gajuwaka village in Vizag where they live with their mother and brother. Gajuwaka is “neither a village nor a full-fledged city”. It is one of those semi-urban areas on the outskirts of a city from where daily wage workers commute to every day in search of work. “It is an industrial area. There are a lot of industries around. Mostly people work in them as daily wage workers,” says Mahabunnissa.
Mahabunnissa and Karimunnissa lost their father seven years ago. It was a big blow to the sisters as both of them considered their father to be a role model. “He never went to school because his parents couldn’t afford sending him to school. So he always motivated us to study,” Karimunnissa reminisces. So close were they to their father that when he passed away, they decided to move from the neighbourhood. “It was too painful to keep living where we did. Plus, the mother had to start working to make ends meet. And there were no livelihood opportunities for her in our old neighbourhood,” explains Mahabunnissa. She adds, “We shifted. The shift was bittersweet for us sisters. We had to deal with the loss and adjust to our new surrounding which required us to be sociable.” The family moved 200kms to Kakinada, their father’s native place.
The financial crisis required both sisters to discontinue schooling and look out for jobs to support their mother. Their mother took up a job in the packaging factory, making Rs. 5000 per month. Their brother, who had earlier dropped out because he failed his tenth standard examination, was working as a welder in construction sites. “He left his job and now sits at home,” says Mahabunnissa, a hint of exasperation in her voice.
Karimunnissa heard about the Magic Bus Livelihoods Centre in her neighbourhood after a friend of hers enrolled and told her all about it. “We were desperately looking for jobs. Having studied till the 10th standard, we were anxious that no one would give us a respectable job. We did not want to enter the daily wage work space,” says Karimunnissa. She decided to drop in at the Livelihoods Centre one day.
Her first day at the Centre involved introductions to the staff and introductory counseling sessions. That day, she left with hope in heart and smile on her lips. “I knew I had come to the right place. The staff is so encouraging here. They understood my problems. They did not pity me but genuinely wanted to help. I felt respected and appreciated,” says Karimunnissa.
To this day, Karimunnissa credits the sessions on spoken English, communication skills, and computer literacy for helping her get a job. “I got my younger sister to the Centre too. What we learn in school is important and yet not enough to help us get a job. That is where the Livelihoods programme comes in to help,” she says with a smile.
For Mahabunnissa the experience was no different. “I learnt so many new skill sets but the most important one for me was learning how to communicate,” she explains.
After completing their training at the Magic Bus Livelihoods Centre, Karimunnissa was placed as a mammography technician at a clinic for a salary of Rs. 10, 200 per month. It has been a year since the day she got her first job that put an end to her search for a respectable job. It fanned her hopes to complete graduation in the future. “Part of my salary goes to running the family and a small part is kept aside for my education. I want to at least complete my graduation and move to a better and well-paying job,” she says.
Her younger sister has similar plans. Employed as a Sales Executive in a premium watch brand’s showroom, Mahabunnissa sees this as an apprenticeship opportunity. She earns Rs. 8000 a month and is keen to go for correspondence courses.
Both of them support each other in whatever they do. Both of them have a goal in life – one for themselves and one for their family. Both of them feel the need to complete their education and move to better job opportunities.