Balika grew up in rural Murshidabad in a village not far from Freeset Sherpur. Her father was a farm laborer and her mother looked after the family.
Balika’s family arranged for her to get married when she was just 13 years old. Her husband was a farm laborer twice her age. Because his work was seasonal, his income was sporadic.
As a young bride, Balika didn’t know what to expect from her husband, so she endured it when she found out that he was an alcoholic. He did not treat her well, and often beat her.
She gave birth to a son when she was 15, and a daughter three years later.
With her husband’s irregular income, preference for alcohol, and lack of care for his family, Balika and her children often went hungry, sharing just one meal a day.
Two years ago, Balika’s husband climbed a tree near their house to pick coconuts in a drunken stupor. He fell out of the tree and died from his injuries.
When Balika told us of that day she said, “There was no peace when my husband was alive, but after his death, our future seemed even more desperate.”
A glimmer of hope unexpectedly appeared a few days later as Balika talked with Kundola, a friend from her village who worked for Freeset in Kolkata.
Kundola shared that there might be an opportunity for a fresh start for Balika at Freeset Sherpur, a Freeset business in rural Murshidabad, just down the road. A week later, Balika started at Freeset Sherpur.
She was thrilled to start her new job. Freeset Sherpur offered her a training stipend and a consistent income above the national minimum. Her children would no longer have to go hungry!
When she first started at Freeset Sherpur, Balika wasn’t confident that she’d have what it takes to learn to weave. She thought she might end up spinning or finishing instead.
Even the Freeset Sherpur team thought she might have a hard time weaving because she was small-framed and not very tall.
During training, Balika set her sights on becoming a weaver. She put all of her energy and concentration into learning and practicing her weaving skills.
Now Balika is one of Freeset Fabric’s best weavers!
She enjoys coming to work to weave and she loves the community-oriented atmosphere at Freeset Sherpur. Between working, chai breaks, and getting lunch with the other women, Balika describes Freeset Sherpur as a family.
When asked about her hopes for the future, Balika didn’t hesitate for a moment. Her biggest dream is for Freeset to grow so that more women from surrounding villages can be given the same opportunity that she had. She wants these women to see their lives, families, and communities flourish. Balika send a special message to people who are friends and supporters of Freeset.
“Now that I work for Freeset Sherpur, there is a better future for me and my family. I was lonely and sad before, but life looks very different now. Thank you!”