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“The Very First Step”

The Very First step is all what we, the women need. Presently, in almost every corner of the world we have organizations and people trying to help women. But how do you help one or enlighten one’s life if the person herself is too hesitant to take that very first step towards having a free and better life. From what I have seen around me even in my very own circle, that out of ten women who were not happy in their lives nine would not even dare to take a step towards improving it. In spite of knowing the fact that if they take a step forward there are so many people to give their hand for help. Well I don’t blame them. There are so many reasons behind this hesitancy. Most importantly there is no or very little awareness amongst them. Most are not even aware of the fact that out there beyond their small world, there are people who can be with them and make sure that they lead a better life or at least put in all the efforts to achieve it. Well, the reason behind this non-awareness can be either of two. First, few of them don't want their life to be improved as they have very well compromised with their destiny and have given up completely so they never look beyond their wall. The other kind will be the one who very well be aware about such organizations but still won’t dare to reach there, thinking about the society or family pressures. This may be, because sometime we are shy or ashamed of our own situations which eventually hold us back from putting it in front of world. Therefore, even if we are aware of opportunities nonetheless we would not be able to take the first step. I would say, we must take that very first step to stand up, be strong and take the step forward for a better life without thinking about anything else but ourselves and better being of our surrounding.

With this I want to share two different stories of two maids who used to work at our house lately. They are from same background with same situation but the ends of their stories are different. Reena is married with two kids at the age of 22. She is a pretty, cheerful and fun loving girl. She stays in a joint family (An extended family which includes several immediate families of relatives, staying together under same roof) with her husband and families of other two brothers and parents of her husband. She leads a very simple life, which starts from getting up at 5 a.m., travelling door to door for cleaning house and dishes , coming back home at time to do her own household work starting from cleaning, washing and cooking etc. Although she is very keen to study which she left when she was 8 years old to help her mother what she does now, but she has no time for that in her day or life. One day, I asked her whether she would like her daughter to do the same job as her or she wants her to have a proper education, she said “I would never want my daughter to live a single day of her life like me”. When I asked her what she will do as no one in her family will send her to school. She said “I have decided that as soon as she is four, I will send her out of this city to study without me or my family so that she would have no influence of this life and she will be on her own one day. I will make sure whether my son goes or not to school but my daughter will for sure be graduated and I will stand for her at each and every step”. After 2 years, I asked her again how her daughter is and I was so amazed to know that she has actually done what she said and her daughter is studying in a good school out of the city and she pays hostel and school fees. Her husband is not paying a single penny for her daughter’s education, in fact he is unhappy to loose few extra bucks her daughter could have earned cleaning dishes.

On the other hand, when I asked the same question to my other maid, Manju about her daughter, she straight away told me “She has no other option in her life except to work. So, I have started her giving the household works so that after few years she can be expert like me.” Age of her daughter was then six years, that little girl used to finish all the household work after her mother and other four sisters had left for house cleaning work. Father used to sit and play cards whole day and get drunk at night and come back home. When I heard that, to help her I gave her an option that I will pay for her daughter's studies but please send her to school, answer to this was that the time she will spend in school is an waste as in that time she can earn some 400 or 500 rupees per month. She had already decided her daughter’s future. Even if she ever wanted it to make it better, she won’t due to the fear and hesitancy to tell her husband about it. She told me, even after working all day and earning on her own she could not pay the fees as her husband will snatch off all her money she earned, so that he can afford his evening drinks.

The point is what Reema did, Manju could not and back then I could not help her in my ability. She could not help herself and her daughters. The slavery of Manju’s life continued to her daughter. But I wished one day each and every woman will take their very first step without any fear, hesitation in their mind and heart. Let us all take our very first step in the journey of being better us and making every woman’s life better.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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Cali gal Michelle's picture

Great story!


What a great entry! This is exactly the kind of story we like to see on the WP news feed. It provides a little background of your culture, and character in a very difficult situation (to put it mildly), and most importantly, there is ACTION taken by her in order to create change! What a brave individual, and what a high level of awareness to not only see the need for her daughter, but sacrificial giving in order to provide better opportunity for her.

You are so right.... there are many people who do not know there is possibility out there. There are others not only willing, but wanting to help in some way. You could start an action campaign to bring awareness of a world outside one's own, and steps to take in order to make a different way for the children so they are not trapped in the vicious cycle.

Please keep bringing these stories of action, and any way we can help support you in your efforts and also those in need. I'm going to recommend you contact Stella Paul, also from India, who is a journalist bringing these kinds of stories to light. She is one of the VOF 2012 winners and I'm sure would love to be connected and also help you connect with others.

See you around the WP site!

Let us Hope together-
aka: Cali gal


Wendyiscalm's picture

Thank you for sharing

Dear Upasana,

Thank you for sharing your story of these two girls. You are amazing that you were will to help the second girl though you could not and you are blessed to be in a position to do this had she wished.

In my years of working with people, I have come to know that a person says they want to change and maybe they even mean it. BUT the truth is that change is very very scary. You know what you have even if it is Hell, but to change means going into the unknown. I know myself when my spiritual awakening came, I was so scared of so many things, including but not limited to giving up friends, not knowing if I would ever make any new ones, knowing my marriage had to end even though I had 4 little children (all 18 months apart) and having no way to support them, on and on. Fear of the unknown and getting out of the comfort zone is definitely a big drawback. So, it isn't that some don't want to change.

Then I have also come to know, and have had this discussion many times in LIvingstone Zambia where I have an NGO, that many people don't have the drive. I believe you are either born with drive or you are not. And no one can give it to you.

For me, the trick was to not to try to control the outcome, to open up possibilities for others but if they don't want to walk through the door I have opened, I must continue on to the big world and find those who have the drive and courage with help to do it.

You make an outstanding point that is a big discussion point in my world.

Keep up the good work. I know by the way you talk that you have a lot to contribute on a large scale. I did also when my children were small. And it was often frustrating that I had to hold back the way a jockey holds back in the race until the last lap. But your time is coming. In the meantime, as Mother Teresa has said, "If you want to help world peace, go home and love your children" and "If you help one person you help the world". You are doing a lot.

Good luck,

Ubuntu (I am who I am because of who we are together)

Wendy Stebbins
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

UpasanaC's picture

Thanks Michelle

Thanks a lot Michelle for such a warm welcome and response. This thought was somewhere always there deep inside my heart that the major obstacle is the first step as we females are very soft hearted no matter from which part of world we belong to. But we are soft hearted should not be interpreted as our weakness and we will make sure instead this becomes our strength.
Thanks for the recommendation. I will surely get in touch with Stella.


Cheers to Life

UpasanaC's picture

You are always Welcome

Hey Wendyiscalm,
You are always welcome. I completely agree with you on the point "If you help one person you help the world" as I believe that you never need to have big campaigns only to spread awareness or help others. In our own little life we can always help people around us by enlightening them. It is a possibility that they wont take it constructively but that's where our actual desire to help them comes by making sure that we make them understand by all the ways so that the fear and hesitancy vanishes.
Trust me on this , from my own experience and a believe that I have , whatever happens happens for good. You are running a NGO , helping out so many people out their in world in spite of whatever situation you were in. You are a blessed soul. You have the blessings of each and every soul you helped guided. I am very sure your kids are extremely proud of you. You have set a big example for world that even though we don't want to come out of our comfort zone , but once we are out of it nobody in this world can make us feel uncomfortable ever again..


Cheers to Life

Wendyiscalm's picture


Well said, Upsi.. Thank you.



Wendy Stebbins
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Mukut's picture

Welcome my compatriot


A big, warm welcome to you. WP is the most amazing platform for women and men to put forth their views, beliefs and stories they truly believe in.
I joined this community last month, and i already feel a renewed vigor and confidence in me which is difficult to subside.

Thank you for sharing such an amazing story of two women, who chose to live life differently. The capacity to bring change, lies within us. We just have to take that "first step", as you mentioned.

Keep sharing more.

Much love,

Mukut Ray

Nita's picture


Hi Upas,
Your entries are very thrilling, their contents very practical, your writing style very unique, clear, succinct - concise. Your personality is mapped out as a very creative,intelligent,focused, committed and passionate person. You are an icon in the womenfolk, a voice in your community and a blessing to this generation. I am tempted to look at you as my TWIN because we have much in common. There is a kind of beauty embedded in your personality. Please keep up don't relent your efforts, the change will be made, the difference felt, and our goals achieved.


Nita's picture


Hi Upas,
Though this article is very interesting, I hesitated commenting because I may not master the context of India.
Except other wise stated for India, I suppose Manju's child and others in same situation are covered by the ILO Convention against child labour.

Not too sure but if the Child labour act 1986 prohibiting child labour is applied it will abate situations like these.
Keeping women empowerment and gender balance aside, the children involved in our case study are real minors covered by the domains of Human Rights and Child's or children's right.

Back to our domain of gender balance and women empowerment, like other areas in life, we can never have everybody on the boat. Some ladies will come on time like you and I, others like Manju may hesitate but eventually join while a good number will never join. The most important group is made up of those who get on board early to get the boat going. We serve as a base and encouragement for the late comers whom we highly welcome.

That Manju does not think like other women, should not be a problem, it should not discourage us because Reena has joined.

Manju's problem may be ignorance. She may think that her daugther's going to school will end up with her obtaining a job and making money. This very money she can still get without schooling but rather going to do the chores for others and be paid.

Her problem may be that she is not ambitious. There are people who live for nothing and die for nothing.
Alexander Hamilton says “He who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”
Others like mediocrity. That is their make up. They never desire to go above average.
They echo Jack Kerouac saying “I don't know, I don't care, and it doesn't make any difference.”

There is another group that acknowledge their poor condition, recognises that there is a way somewhere somehow but they are coerced to remain in their bad condition by circumstances surrounding them. Just having a clue about Manju's husband being a drunkard may tell us that Manju may be a battered woman, enslaved by the husband.

If she dares send her child a way without the husband's consent, it may bring her untold problems if she discusses it with her husband, he may never consent out of ignorance and selfish motives.
This can make her to abandon herself to her fate to avoid tension or tearing the family apart.
She may not open up to people and keep events to herself saying dirty linens are not washed in public.

These are mere possibilities. I am not just thinking aloud.

But if Manju's behaviour is because she isnt a smart woman, the good news is that Reena has stolen the show.
Please if you have the opportunity to keep pushing Reena to continue till the end, please do.

When Reena's daugther will succeed in life, transform her life and that of her mother Reena, add more value to the lives of her family members, women like Manju will sit up. Other girls who go about the house chores within the community will force their parents to send them or their siblings to school. Some grown ups will decide to send their junior ones to schools if their parents cannot major up just because of the testimony of Reena's daugther .

In essence, Reena will serve as an eye opener in that community because at this point in time, actions should speak louder than words,

I had a similar case in my community . A widow having just one child and her trade was selling oranges by the road side. she voluntarily used to help me with my house chores when ever she was opportuned. when it was time for her lone son to go to secondary school, I called her for a private discussion. "I said in a year's time your son will be going to college". i advised her to send her child to the best school. She told me she could not afford that from her orange business. i insisted to her that she could do and that it was just a matter of decision making on her part.
I reminded her that, the child was her only hope in life and given that she was a widow, let here invest in the child. After daily talking for some time, she told me she doesnt know of any good school. I recommended a good christian boarding secondary school and indicated where the school was. At the appropriate time, she went and paid the fees and enrolled the son. All other women selling small things in the market tried to discourage her that she could not be spending about 1000USD on the child alone per annum. Other women told her that she will go bankrupt and may end up in prison. I stood by her and asked to continue. When her son was in the third year in secondary school, all the other women in the market have emulated her example.

They too, though petit traders, have sent their children both boys and girls to expensive but good schools.
This is because someone like Reena had to set the pace.

By the time Reena's child comes for holidays, her mates will notice the difference and this will have a general impact.
I encourage you to stand by Reena and others, bringing their dreams to fruition and please dont give up on Manju or other women like her.

Reena has sown a good seed, we will help her water it grow and the whole community will reap the fruits.

In Love, Unity and peace.


Cali gal Michelle's picture

what an example!

What a great example of how one person can create change! An important point, though, is that your friend who was a widow had a voice of support and encouragement around her..... YOU! Although I do believe one person can create a large impact, it is often with "unseen" support behind her. Whether it's one word from one person at one time, or a friend walking every step of the way.

Thank you for being that support. We need more like you!

Let us Hope together-
aka: Cali gal


UpasanaC's picture

Thanks a lot

Hey Nita,
Thanks a lot for your valuable reply. You are absolutely right a big change will have to start with a single person contributing towards the change... Even in your case , that lady has set an example in her own community and circle for the ladies around her to be bold enough to educate their children by their own.All these will bring huge confidence in women to follow their heart and channelize their minds. We can together work out for a solution for the same :)

Cheers to Life

Mila's picture

Great Story

Dear Upasana,

Thanks so much for sharing your story. I am really impressed by well written your story it. Your writing bring your message to life by making it really easy to picture the women the and their emotions. As women I do feel the greatest thing we can do for our fellow women is to empower/encourage them to stand up for themselves and makes the changes
in their life that better them. After all, we can not do our best job helping others unless we are at our best. The cycle could be stopped if we could impact the mothers. With the women you know, how do you think it would be most effective to support them making changes?

All the best,

weaverheart's picture

Important issues here...

Dear Upasana,

Thank you very much for writing this. It makes very clear the issues at hand, and the agonizing choices that people make (or not), even if they don't realize the consequences. In this case, thus far, ignorance is bliss for Manju, and she knows no other way. The option of a way out that you have kindly offered to her was refused, sadly. The economics of the immediate has won over the idea of longer term investment and empowerment for a different future for her daughter. Is some of the refusal to elevate the status of her daughter in part because of caste, and her perceived "place" in the picture of things? This is a challenging idea to overcome for many although it is changing.

I look forward to hearing more from you and I am grateful that you are out there, observing, helping, documenting all that you see. Thank you for doing this in our vast circle of women empowering one another and ourselves.
Many blessings to you.


Laura R.

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