“I was interested in research, especially on public policies, this enabled me to understand the issues that vulnerable communities face in accessing basic facilities.
After completing my PG, I was worked as a volunteer after the Tsunami struck the shores of Tamil Nadu. The issues that I saw in the affected villages made me decide to work in the development sector.
Eventually, I began working with one of the international NGOs and started working with vulnerable communities, especially with women and children residing in poverty situations facing several forms of discrimination.
The most vulnerable sections became victims of discrimination and violence because of non-access to information about laws and policies that safeguarded their rights. In order to enable women from vulnerable sections to assert their rights, we started engaging in several capacity-building processes to access information about their basic entitlements.
We, as a team, facilitated the formation of women leadership in communities who started applying and availing various schemes from the government not just for themselves but also for the other women, elders, persons with disability in their settlements. Connecting them with the different government departments enabled them to access services by themselves without being dependent on others. The process of empowerment thereby starts with access to information.
Initially, it was a difficult journey for the women to break the chains of poverty and patriarchy. But today these women are an inspiration to themselves and to many others from their settlement.
The journey was not easy, especially when women stood up for their basic rights, amidst the threats and harassment from different quarters we are able to continue our journey for the last 17 years.
My passion to write prompted me to engage in policy research and eventually it became a habit to document the violations from the perspectives of the affected communities. The research reports published by us became a powerful tool for social change enabling us to force many pro-people policy decisions by the government.
Writing became my communication tool. Also, I noticed that many laws and policies concerning the vulnerable sections were in English. This prompted us to translate these documents into Tamil in a way that could be comprehended by anyone. Taking laws and policies to the people became our objective.
In order to catalyse change, we started identifying women leaders from different settlements and started our journey with them. They are now leaders who are inspiring many women in their neighbourhood and are standing in solidarity with victims of violence, to enable them to access justice.
These leaders continue our journey in the community, social change process does not happen overnight it is a continuous process of engaging with people promoting a people-led process.
Changes do not occur overnight it takes months and sometimes years. It took ten years for us to formulate a programme for the urban homeless in Tamilnadu. Today it is a reality.
There are a lot of happenings in a day or two – it takes months and sometimes years
Our journey does not stop with ensuring access to information but we also ensure that basic needs are met. During the pandemic, we ensured that we did not just stop with relief but also ensured water supply, solar-powered electricity to a settlement. We, as a team, have ensured that vulnerable groups have access to water, sanitation and even burial grounds in some settlements. We have also enabled people to apply for land titles and secure them.
Additionally, we engage in media advocacy – this helps in reaching out to many many people across the globe. Media has helped us reach the issues of the communities to the policymakers and bring about change.
I believe that one should be a catalyst of change. Individuals can be change-makers but it takes courage with conviction to make change possible. With teamwork, It is possible to bring about change despite several challenges.
People still continue to stand with us in our struggles for justice and this is what I call a victory.”
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