Indian slum girl ‘makes good’

An illterate street hawker saves his money to help put his wife through university.

Fatima Indian economic boom

Fatima and Shaikh Salary in a slum area
in the Indian town of Visakhapatnam

Most of the high-paying jobs in India’s $50bn information technology industry go to India’s privileged elite.

But, with the help of her husband, one woman has managed to earn her university degree as well as a job at on of India’s top IT companies. Rajesh Sundaram travelled to Visakhapatnam to meet her.

Fatima lives with her husband in a slum area in the Indian town of Visakhapatnam.
Her husband is illiterate, earning his money as a street food hawker. He makes about two dollars a day. 

Six years ago, when Fatima was only 15, her parents took her out of school and arranged her marriage, a story common to many other young girls in her neighbourhood.

Exclusive footage

Watch Rajesh Sundaram’s full report here

Fatima had been a brilliant student and she thought her marriage to Shaikh Salary, her husband, would mean an end to her dreams of becoming an engineer.

“When I said I wanted to be an engineer, my parents and others just dismissed my dreams,” Fatima told Al Jazeera. “They said a girl from the slums could never get become an engineer or work for the big technology companies.”

But, she says, Salary was different.

Fatima said: “When I told him about my dreams, he was very encouraging. He saved money from his meagre earnings to help me go to school and then to engineering college.”

Poverty and tradition

Poverty and tradition still sees many girls in
the slums drop out from school early

The couple received little help for Fatima’s studies initially. They went hungry to pay for her books and university fees and Fatima’s mother was even asked by neighbours to dissuade her from studying.

Rasia, Fatima’s mother, told Al Jazeera: “The neighbours would say it is against our religion, they would ask me, ‘Why you are allowing your daughter to go to school after she is married, what will you gain by that? Are you going to send your daughter out to work?'”

Very few girls in Fatima’s poor, mostly Muslim, neighbourhood are encouraged to study. Poverty and tradition still sees many girl children in the slums drop out from school early. Most are married off and expected to raise children and do housework.

“They did not educate their daughters and so were opposed to my daughter going to school,” Fatima’s mother said.

Eventually, a charity gave Salary and Fatima a soft loan to part finance her engineering degree and despite the odds, Fatima worked hard and earned her engineering degree with distinction.


Salary was pleased for his wife, and told Al Jazeera that it was their love for each other that had helped them achieve their goal.

“I am a poor illiterate man. I did not want her to be like me,” Salary said. “Now that she has worked hard and achieved so much, people will look at us with respect.”

For the time being Fatima helps her husband at his kiosk in the evening, but soon she will begin a job at one of India’s top information technology companies where she will earn $600 a month.

She will have to move away from the slums to another city for her new job.

Salary will move with her.

Source: Al Jazeera

More from News
Most Read