Sheela

Sheela is from a small village on the outskirts of a large city in India and is 21 years old. She lost her mother when she was two months old due to cancer. She believed that her aunt who looked after her was her mother, but this aunt eventually told her the truth…. that her mother had died, her father had remarried, and that she had an elder sister who was probably sold off having been sent away with a man to the big city (name changed for safety reasons), for domestic work.
Sheela recalls being harassed as a child. Her step mother would stuff her mouth with paper, physically abuse her, and even exclude her from family meal times. She was sexually abused by a middle aged man in the village, and kept away from relatives and school friends.

All this abuse and mistreatment led her to jump into a well, hoping to end her life, but she was saved by her father. After this event, her father sent her to a big city with an unknown man, at age 15.

At first Sheela was excited about being in a new place. She thought that she would probably get to go to school which would be different than what she’d experienced in her village. However, her dreams were all shattered as she was forced into domestic work for the family she lived with. She worked there for 5 years. Whilst there she also tried to look for her sister. Sheela located her after three years of searching. Her sister shared about how she was abused as a child by their step mother and ill-treated by their alcoholic father as well. Like Sheela, she had been taken out of school, forced into domestic work, and eventually sent off with a man to the big city.

Sheela thought it would be good to return to her village as she was, in a way, trapped in the home she worked in. All her earnings were handed over to her father. However, from here she was then sent to work in the house of a Bollywood producer. This house had three men, a woman, and a little toddler living together. Their life was all about alcohol and late night parties. Sheela once again tried to end her life, this time by drinking poison. She was taken to the hospital and upon examination it was discovered that she was being abused often. Once she was well, Sheela was placed in a Government Protective Home.

She was given a choice of returning to her family or continuing to stay at this Government facility. She decided to stay at the Government home and was there for almost a month before she was referred to a ministry for rehabilitation. Sheela has not seen her parents in over 5 years and does not wish to. She prefers to be known as an orphan. Sheela has completed her studies up through the 7th grade and is being counseled regularly to be able to speak of her past and forgive herself. She continues to live in the Restoration Home for counseling and recuperating. Now she has finished her bakery training and hopes to continue her education in this field.