This profile was prepared when Mahbuba Leena was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1992.
The New Idea
Leena's efforts are aimed at the problems of single mothers who bear the double burden of working and raising a family. Leena is helping to encourage and ensure women's self-reliance by providing basic residential and educational facilities for their children. While a few hostels exist for economically disadvantaged children, none offer their services to the children of single working mothers or reach out to the most marginalized sections of the community. Leena's program is attempting to reach these women, especially those who are prostitutes. Through Leena's program, mothers can ensure that their children will have appropriate, full-time care. However, it provides much more than care. It provides a formal and informal education. It teaches the children, by example, to respect women. Especially criticial, it helps the children to respect themselves and others, and to come to terms with their own identity as the children of single mothers or prostitutes.In addition, Leena is working to help society to focus on the problems of single working mothers and their children. She encourages the children's financial sponsors, usually affluent members of the community, to spend time with the children and learn firsthand of their difficulties. In this way, Leena is molding a constituency that she hopes will eventually help press for the establishment of far-reaching legal and social supports for these women and their children.