For the past four years, Rena Fernandes, SCN, has been taking concrete steps in reaching out to the women inmates of the Central Jail in Gaya on a regular basis. With a lot of enthusiasm, she went forward to look for possibilities to help these women. Initial contacts were made with the Jail authorities and they were ready to cooperate. Without wasting any time, the Jailor got a room cleaned up and white-washed for the women to gather. Their needs were brought to light without delay. Literacy classes were started by the two teachers appointed by Sister Rena. Five sewing machines and accessories were bought and with the help of a skills training teacher, classes in tailoring and embroidery were started. With a smile on their lips the women began to use their free time profitably.
Running around the women’s section were children, some of them born in the Jail itself. With some preliminary work done, three of these children were admitted to Nazareth Vidya Niketan, run by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in Chatra. Sister Rena motivated some of the parents of the Pre-School and businessmen to contribute towards the expenses of these endeavors.
Sister Rena, after her regular work as the Director of Nazareth Pre-School spends two hours daily in the prison listening to their stories and then extends her help in whatever way she can. Some of the women are picked up from their place of work or their homes without any prior notice and are brought to Jail only with the clothes on their backs and nothing more. Some family members when informed respond to their needs but others are left to fend for themselves especially if they have been falsely accused and jailed by their husbands or in–laws. The parents of the Nazareth Academy students, women’s welfare groups, teachers and the Sisters themselves come to their rescue and contribute to their immediate needs from time-to-time.
A regular doctor is appointed to attend to the immediate health needs of these women. Timely services are not available to those who need medical assistance and/or hospitalization. It is difficult to get the family members to come and be at their bed side when they are hospitalized. The mental trauma of neglect and rejection makes their lives doubly difficult. With timely intervention, doctors and nurses at the local medical college and hospital have been of some help especially in cases of emergencies.
In spite of the hardships suffered by the inmates, the rewarding experiences come with their release from the jail one by one. Along with the physical freedom comes the freedom and ability to help oneself. With a certificate in skills training in their hand, they can get employment or start self-employment on their own initiative. They can now dream about their children getting an education which will equip them to make a better future for themselves. Thus a ray of hope shines on the horizon for these once hapless women and children of the jail.