Bangalore: Tabassum faced tough opposition from family and society when she decided to work with the children
Breaking the HIV taboo is a challenging task. The moment a case is diagnosed, some families choose to distance themselves from the victims. About ten years ago, when a close friend of Tabassum died just two days after the doctors told her that she was suffering from HIV, Tabassum saw that none of her friend’s family even wanted to touch her. At this point, Tabassum was left alone to perform her last rites. That was when she decided to dedicate her life for the sake of HIV positive children. Until then, her job with an NGO was nothing more than a source of income.
Speaking to Bangalore Mirror, Tabassum said, “For the past 14 years, I have been working for HIV positive children and pregnant women. My outlook changed after this incident.” Recollecting her past, she said, “I hail from a very poor family. I secured a distinction in SSLC and wanted to study further, but my family could not afford to support my studies. I somehow managed to go up to PUC, but by then, my family got me married. After marriage, I did not want to stay at home and went on to do my degree, after which I took up a job with an NGO for the sake of a living. It is never easy for a Muslim woman to come forward and work, specially with an NGO where you deal all kinds of people. I somehow fought opposition from family and went ahead. I continue to work at the NGO even today, and at the same time since I enjoy working with kids, I took it up as a challenge and went ahead to set up my own protection care centre called ‘Snehadeep’ about two years ago,” she said.
“Strangely, I received lot of opposition; some even said it was not right for a Muslim lady to take up this responsibility. I can proudly say that at Snehadeep, I look after 14 girls in the 7-12 years age group and all of them are Hindus. There is no religion once these children fall sick. Often, their families prefers to distance themselves from the children. More than their physical health, these children suffer from psychological pain or want of company. The bigger children scan through newspapers everyday looking for any new medicine that can cure them. They know that they will die soon. At times, convincing them to study is also difficult. When these kids are at their last stage and are shifted to the hospital, nobody from their family wants to associate with the child. Often, they are left to die alone. I try my best to be there with them during their last stage though it is very painful and perform their last rites in the best way I can. With every death, I only pray and hope that this is last child dying before me. The initial days were a struggle. I used to go door-to-door on a Sunday asking people for help. Even a packet of biscuits for kids would make a difference. Getting funds for food is always a big task,” she said.
For Tabassum, spending time with the kids provides peace of mind. “Recently, I was very happy when a child received 92 percent in PUC. “