Married when she was 16, Runjun Begum from Assam was abused by her in-laws for having two daughters. She ran away from that atmosphere and now is financially independent and is empowering other women.
We don’t always need the stories of great leaders to inspire us. Sometimes real-life stories of average women overcoming adversaries and succeeding in life inspire us more. Assam’s Runjun Begum’s story is one like that.
In 2007, Runjun Begum was married at the age of 16, and she was abused for having a girl child who was ‘dark-skinned’. It started with taunts, but when the second child was also a daughter, the abuses started to get physical. Cold winter nights were a nightmare for Runjun begum because her husband and in-laws would lock her outside the house as part of abuse. They would beat her and physically abuse her for not getting enough dowry from her father, and for not having a male heir to the household.
When Runjun Begum became pregnant for the third time, the abuses became worse, and they wanted her to abort the baby. They did not want a third daughter, they said. Runjun had only two choices. Either continue to live in that house and bear with the abuses or go to Guwahati and end her life. With plans of ending her life, she got on a bus to Guwahati with just Rs.30. But she was crying throughout the bus trip. A stranger noticed this and offered to help her.
He took her to his home and helped file a case of domestic violence against her husband and in-laws in the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Through him, she met the advocates Pabitra Hazarika and Alen Mahanta who helped her with the case and also connected her with Nirmal Ashray, an NGO working towards the welfare of women. It was only when she met with women who had a similar or worse fate than her that Runjun gave up her suicidal thoughts.
She trained in stitching with the Ashray and was learning to stitch even when she was nine months pregnant. After giving birth to a son, she worked in a stitching shop for some time before opening her own shop in 2014. She later gave up the case against her husband and in-laws for her own peace of mind. She wanted to live peacefully with her son without looking back at the past. But she was granted a divorce in the year 2015.
Besides stitching clothes, Runjun also stitches masks, cushion covers, curtains, blankets and so on. She has also ventured into selling fabrics. Her monthly revenue ranges anywhere between Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh. The 31-year-old was recently felicitated by the Assam Social Welfare Minister, Ajanta Neog in a conference held against domestic violence.