A Shattered Dream Restored
During my first year of college, I consulted a doctor after having some health problems. Hearing his prognosis shattered my dreams and completely changed my life.
- Reflects Ranee Singh with tear-filled eyes.
The doctor had told Ranee that she would never be able to conceive. This led to a chain of events in her life, which took her through some very rough waters.
Since childhood Ranee dreamt of gaining recognition by contributing to society. She craved for a job, which would allow her to help others. She wanted to be a social worker. She was in college pursuing that dream… and then one day it all shattered.
Ranee belongs to a patriarchal society in Bihar. Here arranging the marriage for a girl unable to conceive, can be difficult. Worried with this thought, Ranee’s parents started looking for a groom for her. A person who would accept her in this condition. After much search, a potential match came forward. A widower with 2 children from an earlier marriage agreed.
Ranee felt guilty of causing so much trouble for her parents. She blamed herself for the unnecessary tension she had brought in their lives. She had to solve this, had to let go of her studies and agree to marry.
Ranee got married and thought that her troubles were over. Then, after 2.5 years of marriage, her husband got murdered. After her husband’s death, Ranee had no clue, no perspective whatsoever about how to live. How to get her life back on track? She did not know where her life headed. What was she supposed to do? On top of all this, her in-laws became indifferent. They did not want her in their lives anymore.
At this juncture in her life, Ranee’s parents came to know about Akhand Jyoti through her uncle. How, it was working towards eradicating curable blindness from Bihar. While doing so how it was helping rural underprivileged girls carve out a bright future.
4.3 million people are estimated to be visually impaired in Bihar. The state has a backlog of 7,00,000 blind people. Further, 100,000 people add to this number every year, cataract being the primary cause. 85% of these people can’t afford medical treatment.
Akhand Jyoti has been addressing this problem by performing over 65,000 sight-restoring surgeries annually. 80% of these surgeries are free of cost for underprivileged and indigent patients. So far, the hospital has helped impact more than 12 million people in low-income regions.
So while addressing this eye problem was it possible to attack the deep-rooted gender inequality in society? Was it possible to bring in a bigger societal change? A solution came forward as the ‘Football to Eyeball Programme'. It is a part of the larger ‘Gender Equality Programme’ for girls. Akhand Jyoti used football to initiate girls and help them come out of the households.
The parents simply had to allow their daughter to stay at Akhand Jyoti and play football. The hospital would take care of their entire education and accommodation. It would further train them as qualified optometrists. Following the completion of their course, the girls got employed at the hospital. Further, they may rise through leadership levels and emerge as social change agents.
Ranee came to Akhand Jyoti looking for any kind of job. She was encouraged to join the ‘Gender Equality Programme’ and train as an optometrist. From the very beginning, she knew that she had to work harder than others. Mainly because of her poor English and for the fact that she had left her studies. She emerged as one of the hardest workers. Picked up the ropes and passed her course with flying colours.
Presently Ranee leads the operation theater at Akhand Jyoti’s base hospital at Mastichak, Bihar.
She earns a handsome living and contributes to society. Though she can never have a child of her own, yet she has emerged as a mother-figure to many of the younger girls adopted by Akhand Jyoti. Today Ranee shares with much joy “After coming to Akhand Jyoti, I found a purpose for my life. The school time dream I had, of becoming a social worker came true at Akhand Jyoti.”