Celebrate women who are empowering the next generation

Through this story, we celebrate Sheela, who has been empowered through Mukti Mission and, in turn, is empowering generations after her to nurture.

Nurture [nur-cher]
To support and encourage, as during the period of training or development; foster

Sheela came to Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission in the 1940s as an orphaned child. At Mukti she found a place to belong. She found her family.

When she came of age, she was married and sent along with her husband to live in their home in Central India. Sheela and her husband were blessed with a baby girl and named her Deepa, which means light.

Soon after, her joyful story took a tragic turn. Sheela’s husband, while walking along a nearby river, was pulled in by the strong current. He drowned, leaving her widowed and left to raise her young daughter on her own.

Not only did she have to grieve the death of her husband, she had to face the social stigma of being a widow in India. In traditional Hindu culture, widows are considered cursed and as a result, they are ostracized and sometimes subjected to abuse and neglect from their families. The widow is also seen as a financial burden on the surviving family, and Sheela was no exception.

To add further devastation to her situation, instead of housing Sheela, her in-laws took Deepa and refused to let Sheela stay. “We will keep your daughter, but you go back to Mukti Mission,” they said. Sheela pled with her in-laws to get her daughter back, but they refused.

With nowhere else to go, she returned to Mukti Mission where she was lovingly embraced, but still spent many nights in tears, dealing with the trauma she had experienced. Through her grief, she had one request. She wanted to be a housemother for orphan children. She knew she had a lot of love to give.

Mukti’s answer for her was the Jasmine Flower Family (one of the homes at Mukti that houses orphan children). There, she found a home within a home and treated the children as her own. They called her Sheelu-Aai, which means mother.

Sheela has now retired as housemother, but after more than 30 years of service and as generations of girls have moved in and out of the Jasmine house, her motherly love has had a long-lasting impact on their lives. Many of these former Jasmine children are now serving the next generation in jobs such as social workers and teachers. A lot of them are now adult women who still return to Mukti Mission to visit Sheela.

While Sheela was able to nurture and care for the children at the Jasmine home, she was eventually able to reunite with her daughter after two decades of separation. When Deepa turned 23, she married a man who happened to live 30km away from Mukti Mission. This provided the opportunity for mother and daughter to be reunited.

Today, Deepa regularly visits Sheela at Mukti with her husband and children. Deepa’s own daughter, Sheela’s granddaughter, is now in her early twenties and comes in once a week to teach math to Mukti children.

The cycle of empowerment continues.

Your gift of $75 can support one woman at Mukti Mission for one month, providing her with nutritious food, shelter, clothing, vocational training, medical care, emotional care, spiritual care and any trauma counselling (if needed).

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