Ghazala does not know for sure how old she is. Her guess is anywhere between 15 and 18 years. She became a child bride five years ago. For a young girl, she already has three children- two sons aged 3 and 2 and a three-month-old daughter.
Ghazala’s husband works as a manual labourer and often struggles to find long-term work. On days he is able to find odd jobs, he still earns less than 2 dollars a day. “He goes without work for long periods of time and there are days we struggle to feed ourselves well,” she says.
Left with little alternative to feed a family of five – including three young children, Ghazala supplements her husband’s meager income by rolling beedis like other girls and women in her neighbourhood. Unlike others who accomplish rolling 1000 beedis a day, Ghazala can barely roll 500. “In addition to rolling beedis and doing household chores, I also have to look after three very young children,” she says.
For a young mother who is still breastfeeding, Ghazala has little time or money to care for her nutritional needs. She sits for hours rolling beedis with her youngest child on her lap. All her children, including the three-month-old girl come in direct contact with tobacco. Like all other beedi rollers in Kadiri, Ghazala and her children are exposed to harmful tobacco dust as they sit in narrow congested lanes, surrounded by heaps of tobacco in temperatures reaching 45 degrees Celsius in summer.
“Besides severe body ache, I also get headaches and sometimes I find it difficult to breathe,” she says. “But I have to work to survive and to pay our rent, we have no choice.”