Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Unsung Women of the International Women’s Day

Unsung Women of the International Women’s Day
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Chennai: Every year before March 8, big cut-outs, posters and banners will be on display all over the city to celebrate the International Women’s Day. There would be public functions organized to mark the occasion where female celebrities would be facilitated with much fanfare. Paparazzi would click their pictures from every possible angle, the tabloids and dailies would flash them on the front pages as if to say... do you know the Pope is Catholic!

Contrary to these entire hullabaloos, a very small function was jointly organized by the Centre for Development Research and Training (CFDRT), East West Center Almunai (EWCA) Association Chennai Chapter and Experiment in International Living (EIL) Chennai Chapter at the office of the CFDRT, Chennai, on the 8th March 2007.

At this function there were women volunteers from the Anakavur block of Tiruvannamalai district in Tamil Nadu who shared their valuable experience working for the empowerment of the women. These women had formed women’s groups in their villages, and were focusing on areas such as health, nutrition, school drop-outs, water, hygiene and sanitation to bring about a change in their social milieu.

Four women volunteers made individual presentations explaining the work they had been doing for women’s upliftment. They described their experiences how they formed three groups comprising of women, adolescent girls and children and what they were doing for their development.

Issues such as ante natal care, institutional delivery, neo-natal and post natal care, exclusive breastfeeding, nutrition, monthly weighing and growth monitoring, referral and immunization formed their agenda of women empowerment.

They also briefed how they were building awareness on Right to Information Act, organizing cooking demonstrations to popularize locally available low-cost and no-cost nutritious foods and building awareness on rights of women, etc.

"These are grassroots workers, very simple women, very down to earth who have selflessly and silently been working for the upliftment of the society," said Mr. P. Subramaniyam, Managing Trustee, CFDRT Trust; Secretary of the EWCA Chennai Chapter and Community Chairman of the EIL Chennai Chapter, while welcoming the guests of the function and introducing the volunteers to the audience.

Mr. P. M. Belliappa, President, EWCA Chennai Chapter in his presidential address, praised the good work done by the CFDRT Trust and mentioned about his earlier associations with the erstwhile North Arcot District of Tamil Nadu of which he was the District Collector in the 70’s.

"I am aware of the backwardness of the Anakvur block and therefore full of appreciation for the excellent work done by the volunteers, particularly the women volunteers," he said.

Mr. Belliappa acknowledged that all the participants spared some time for development work in their own villages, even though the work was fully voluntary in nature. He also praised the life cycle approach of the women volunteers to empower women in their villages which was certainly an effort that would sustain their empowerment.

Mr. K. Muniyandi, a volunteer from Akkur outlined his plans to start a women’s group in his village on similar lines as being outlined by the volunteers in their presentation.

The function came to close with the appreciation and felicitation of the unsung women volunteers working to bring about sustainable change among the women folks living in their respective areas.

This International Women’s Day function was a fitting salutation to the entire unsung women world over who are silently but relentlessly working for women empowerment at the grassroots level.
The author is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com

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