Parveena Jan, aged 27, a native of Khallen, is working on some orders that she has received locally. Parveena carefully selects the coloured threads that match with the embroidery on the traditional Kurta that she is working on.
Within intervals of her sipping Nun Chai, she marks the fabric with a chalk, and selects the best patterns.
She may look ordinary, but this powerhouse of resilience in Pulwama, has been beating all odds, and conquering the worldly challenges as a woman with special abilities, confidently.
Belonging to a family that had always lived hand to mouth, Parveena, who suffered from Polio at the age of 5, drives her family financially and emotionally.
Her parents say they were unaware of the vaccination process, due to which Parveena fell prey to the disease.
“Her legs from time to time did show some abnormalities when she was an infant but we did not know exactly what was wrong with her. That time, we took her to a woman in the community who claimed to cure all diseases. Unfortunately, that backfired and Parveena’s condition deteriorated, often accompanied by constant fevers,” says Parveena’s mother.
At the age of five, Parveena fell extremely sick. That is when her parents took her to the nearest hospital and the doctors informed them that Parveena suffers from Polio.
Her other three sisters, who are now married, also suffer from partial disabilities.
“When we got to know about her condition, we couldn’t come to terms with the fact. We were worried about having to live with a burden all our lives. But Allah was kind to us, now, she is running this house and taking care of us. I feel guilty of even having that thought in my mind earlier,” says her father.
Parveen was trained by her neighbour, a local tailor by the name of Ramzan Mir.
Praising Parveena’s undaunted determination, Mir says, “initially, Parveena was nervous and would feel hopeless. But her determination was, and is, undaunted. She faces challenges in life with courage. She did not even know how to handle a sewing machine or knit a button when she came to me. But in a month she learned most of the skills and her confidence boosted.”
Since her childhood, all she saw was poverty and gloom, Parveena says.
“When I was a child I would see the helplessness on my parents’ faces because we would be in financial crisis most of the time. Since then, I have been thinking of ways to help them out. So one day I decided to take up tailoring,” says Parveena.
“Yes, I am called disabled, but my disability will not decide my fate. It is not reflective of my abilities,” says Parveena.
However, the process was not as easy. She would take two hours to travel a distance of 2 kilo-meters from her home to the tailoring center. Wearing worn-out slippers on her hands, she would drag her body through the muddy lanes of her village.
“It takes almost 3 months to learn the art of tailoring, but Parveena is a quick learner,” exclaims Rizwan Mir.
“I do not earn a lot of money, but I am sure that I will be able to earn more and my family will be out of this vicious circle of poverty,” she says.
Parveena now operates from a small room in her house. Women from within her village and the neighbouring villages come to her for getting their apparels stitched.
With excitement in her eyes, Parveena says, “I can stitch suits, pherans, kurtas, anything the ladies want.”
Living amidst hardship all her life, Parveena says she knows how it feels to live a life of uncertainty, and is now mentoring others.
She currently helps two more girls from her village, by teaching them tailoring, and has hired them for assisting her.
Both these girls, Uzma and Sony are school dropouts and with their income, from Parveena’s tailoring outlet, they cater to their personal needs.
“I had completely lost hope in life. I dropped out of school because my parents could not afford it anymore. Parveena didi came as a ray of hope and with her tailoring lessons I now have a skill that helps me help my family,” says Uzma.
Sony, praising Parveena’s humble nature says, “Parveena didi did not just teach me tailoring but also life skills, how to live amidst a challenging situation, and how to overcome these challenges.”
“Disabled people are a part of this population, yet they are ignored by the public. They miss the eye of policymakers as well. It is very hard to live as a disabled person because we start life 10 steps behind others. Our rights and opportunities are very limited,” says Parveena.
Parveena feels that the Government has not been very considerate of the needs and has been ignoring the future of the specially-abled people in Kashmir.
“We face a lot of discrimination in public spaces, in terms of the unavailability of facilities and the insensitivity of people. Due to this a lot of us are apprehensive to even appear in the public sphere. All we need from our society and government is to create a safe environment for us,” Parveena continues to say.
“More than us being ‘naturally’ disabled, it is the unfavourable environment that keeps us trapped in this disability and stops us from moving forward,” she says, adding, that being a person with ‘disability’ was not a choice, but living in despair is not something that she would accept.
With confidence in her eyes, Paveena shows that the world may think that she is ‘disabled, but she is not defeated’ in any way.
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