Collateral Benefits

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Sometimes our work affects our beneficiaries in the most unplanned and unexpected ways.

We visited Muskaan Khatoon and her mother, Masura Bibi, in the slums of Topsia, Kolkata. Masura Bibi has been bringing Muskaan to the TMF funded Sadhan Resource Centre in Kolkata for over four years now. Masura Bibi, 28 years old, is the mother of three daughters and has been married for 15 years. We talk to Masura Bibi while Muskaan makes herself busy with toys and dolls.

When Muskaan was around two years old, her mother began to notice that she wasn’t saying anything or making any sounds. She suspected that something could be wrong and was referred to PG Hospital. Muskaan was diagnosed with hearing impairment and the doctors told Masura Bibi that if she didn’t take action now, her daughter may never learn to speak. Shortly after, Masura Bibi spoke to friend about these developments. She was then referred to VAANI. She promptly visited, had her daughter assessed, and then enrolled at the Sadhan Resource Centre.

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Four years on and Masura Bibi speaks of the benefits of bringing her child to VAANI. She tells us how Muskaan has now understood the concept of family and can identify the various members. She is now able to ask for things that she wants and have basic conversations with her siblings. She attends a Bengali medium school and fits right in with the hearing children and also fares really well in tests. She has made many friends with whom she plays with on a daily basis. Masura Bibi tells us about how she doesn’t want her daughter to be differentiated from the other children.

“If someone addresses her as deaf or mute, I tell her to tell them not to call her that and that her name is Muskaan.”

Being the mother of three daughters, Masura Bibi, tells us about how she will not allow them to be differentiated or discriminated because of their gender either. Her eldest daughter is 13 and already had several proposals for marriage. Even though this was the age at which Masura Bibi was married off, she has refused the proposals for her daughter outright, and has taken a stern stand that all her girls will first be properly educated and only then will they think about marriage. Her husband, who was initially unhappy that he had three daughters, eventually came around.

“The same way we bring up a boy and take care of him with love and affection, if we bring up a girl, they will both be equals. There will be no differentiation at all”, says Masura Bibi.

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Masura Bibi says that she can earn Rs. 200 in a day from home, despite being uneducated, while her husband earns around Rs. 500 from his meat shop close to town. She has four sisters, all of whom haven’t gone to school.

“My parents made the discrimination. I will not do that to my children. For me, all my three girls are equal and they can be equal to any boy as well”

We asked Masura Bibi what she learned from VAANI.

“I have learned the alphabet from A to Z. I have learned to read and write my name. I have learned the Bengali alphabet. I have learned basic math like addition and subtraction. I have also learned to write. I used to be completely illiterate before taking Muskaan to VAANI, but now I have learned many things. In order to be able to teach my child well, I too must know these things. Sometimes when I don’t understand things I ask the VAANI teachers to help me just like Muskaan would.”

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Masura Bibi is very hopeful for Muskaan’s future.

We at VAANI insist that our work shouldn’t just benefit the deaf child; it should also impact the parents and siblings. With the generous support of the Tech Mahindra Foundation we make sure that this is possible. Hearing that Masura Bibi took the initiative to learn alongside her daughter and bring herself out of illiteracy is just music to our ears!

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