Lighting up lives

Since 1993, the K.P. Janaki Ammal Trust has been working for the welfare of women and children in the rural areas of Tamil Nadu with its motto: ‘development empowers the poor.’ BY MADHUMITHA C.

It has been more than two decades now. Still they work with the same enthusiasm and spirit as though they had begun yesterday. Nothing seems to make them happier than the fact that a girl student from a rural area and poor economic background has a success story to narrate.

During their annual meeting held on October 21 at their head office in Chennai, the members of the K.P. Janaki Ammal Memorial Trust were absorbed in a discussion about setting up a ‘Women Development Centre’ to help the women in rural areas earn a livelihood. This is another step in the series of services they have been providing for girls and women in rural, poverty-stricken areas.


    A glimpse into the K.P. Janaki Ammal Trust and its activities

The K.P. Janaki Ammal Memorial Trust is a registered charitable trust based in Tamil Nadu. It was formed in 1993 to commemorate the memory of K.P. Janaki Ammal, who was the founder-president of the Tamil Nadu unit of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA).

Janaki Ammal was a freedom fighter. She had been active in the peasant movement of Tamil Nadu and had been the leader of the movement. As a legislator from the Madurai constituency she had constantly addressed the problems of women and the poor.

Taking forward this legacy of service for poor women, the trust functions actively. The trust has provided an array of social services like providing financial assistance for the education of girls from poor peasant families, conducting medical camps for girls in rural areas, conducting free tuition classes to assist girls in their education, conducting workshops to instil self-confidence in girl students and conducting campaigns in villages to sensitize the villagers about the importance of educating a girl child.

The key areas where the trust has been working include Usilampatti, Karumathur, Nathapatti, Koilaangulam, Vadakkanpatti, Vellamalaipatti, Thittappo Nayakanur, Pomanayakanur and Chellampatti.


With the vision that ‘‘development empowers the poor’’ and with the specific focus “to ensure that every girl goes to school and gets ten to twelve years of schooling”, the trust first began its work in the village of Karugaipillai. The trust had encouraged families in that village to educate their children by sending them to schools till they completed their 12th standard. For this to happen, the trust had provided financial support in educating the girl children from agricultural labour and poor peasant families belonging to the scheduled castes and the most backward castes.


“Karugapillai village was chosen because female infanticide was very high there.”


In its initial stages the Trust had selected children who were above the fifth standard and monitored their education with the assistance of voluntary activists. The Trust provides Rs.750 for each child’s education, out of Rs.1000 contributed by each donor who wishes to sponsor a child. The greater part of the remaining Rs.250 is used to cover the cost of monitoring the student’s progress and in conducting campaigns to sensitize the villagers about educating girl children. The remaining amount is used for overhead expenses.

R.Padmakumari, a member of the Trust since the past 10 years, says that recently around 10 to 12 students, who had successfully completed their 12th standard with the financial support of the Trust, are pursuing higher studies like nursing and teacher training.

The members of the Trust say that the number of girl students appearing for the tenth class board exams had also been rising steadily. They say that it had gone up from a very small number, to around 55 in the academic year 2009-2010. They say that the pass rate had also been quite high, at more than 85%.

In 2009, the Trust had also opened free computer education centres for girl children from underprivileged families at Dindigul and Vellore.

The Trust had opened free tuition centres for girl children from very poor families at Madurai and Dindigul. On behalf of the Trust, R.Padmakumari had been taking care of the proper functioning of the free tuition centre at Madurai, for the past 7 years.

Savitha (name changed), a student at the tuition centre in Madurai for many years, is now pursuing a B.Sc. degree in Chemistry at Ambika College in Madurai. She did her schooling at a Corporation School in Madurai. Before joining the tuition centre she was very doubtful about pursuing studies.

This was mainly because of the kind of atmosphere that prevailed at her home. She is the eldest of three daughters. There was no proper place to study at her home and her father, a labourer, was an alcoholic. Her mother is a housewife. Savitha used to be very upset as her dad never took interest in educating her.

However, after joining the tuition centre her confidence level was boosted. She then had a proper place to study and the teachers at the tuition centre motivated her. She had passed her 12th class board exams with flying colours and is currently doing a degree course. She says that she wants to become a teacher and help children from poor economic background.

One of the future plans of the Trust is to set up ‘Women Development Centres’. Managing trustee R. Brindha says: “The Women Development Centres will focus on the skill development of women, especially those in the surroundings of the villages where we offer help.”

Brindha says that the Trust will be able to come up with more innovative ways to reach out to the poor and help them if youngsters get involved in the activities of the Trust.

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