Naseem Jahan was born in a small city called Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh. Her father was a labourer who at the young age of 23 years died under mysterious circumstances. Neighbours and relatives claimed black magic was imposed on him and he fell ill. Her mother was only 20 years when she too passed away soon after due to grief and a heart attack.
Naseem was only 5 months old when she was adopted by her Aunt (Father’s sister). Her Aunt was married but had no children of her own, Naseem came into her life as a blessing. Along with Naseem, she also adopted her cousin’s son and they formed a family of their own. Naseem’s Aunt worked as a seamstress and made a living of Rs.3 a day (0.042 cents/ 0.032 pennies) to feed her family. Her husband passed away soon due to Tuberculosis, so she decided to shift to Delhi for better work opportunities.
Her Aunt came to Delhi in 1982 with young Naseem and started living in the Chanderpuri Slum colony. Naseem spent her childhood half the time with her Aunt in Delhi and half of it with her grandparents back in Moradabad. This limited her education and she never went to school. In Chanderpuri, her Aunt started working as a seamstress. She started to earn Rs.6 per day (0.084 cents/0.064 pennies) in the early 1980s.
Naseem started working at 10 years of age in a jeans factory by cutting threads, she was paid Rs.100-150 a day (2.09 USD/1.61 £). In 2005, when Naseem was 15 years old, she was married off to a man living and working in Mumbai. Unfortunately, her husband refused to take her to Mumbai and divorced her over the phone within a few days of the marriage. In the year 2011, Naseem got married for the second time to a professional tailor in Delhi who was 6 years older and made a decent living by earning Rs.15-20000 (278.55 USD/214.8 £).
The second marriage too turned sour for Naseem as her husband declined to take care of his family and spent his earnings on himself. Soon she gave birth to 2 daughters yet her relationship with her husband only worsened. Naseem continued working hard, feeding and educating her daughters with the little money that she earned. She continued to have disagreements with her husband over his responsibilities which resulted in her getting physically abused continually. A year ago, her husband decided to live separately from his family. He rarely meets his children and is believed to be having an affair. Naseem does not wish to get divorced officially yet as the children’s paternal grandparents are involved in the children’s lives and contribute to their education.
Today Naseem is an active member of the Mahila Mandal who participates in all activities and rallies hosted by Asha at Chanderpuri. She has become an empowered woman who wishes her daughters to continue studying and move ahead in life. She prays that her daughters never follow her life pattern and suffer as she did. Currently, both her daughters are active Bal Mandal members who have imbibed Asha values in their lives. In the meantime, Naseem visits the Asha centre regularly to learn how to communicate in English with the assistance of Asha college students.