Savitri Amma belongs to the Irula community of snake-catchers in Tamil Nadu. After wildlife authorities cracked down on their means of livelihood, most Irulas turned into bonded labour, as they were burdened by debts from local landlords. After marriage, Savitri and her husband turned to fishing and catching prawns and crabs. Then came the tsunami in 2004, creating havoc in the coastal areas. But disaster brought forth opportunities, too.

Shunned by the fishermen community for being an ‘untouchable’ Irula, Savitri became part of a self-help group with help from CARE India, a non-governmental organisation and the Government. Now, she is an entrepreneur, and part of a crab-fattening business and earns enough. She has repaid her loans and can count money, which she had never ever held in her hands before.

Shikha Mondal from Gujarat didn’t allow polio to beat her down. She now heads a community service group that makes sure that children take polio drops and attend school.

These and many more stories of women’s empowerment have been brought out in the form of a book of pictorial essays called Affirmations, In Her Own Voice. The confident women, who braved great odds, have been photographed by Andre Jeanpierre Fanthom, winner of the National Academy Award for Visual Arts.

“This is our tribute to the women whose strength and determination is the essence of these stories,” said Muhammad Musa, CEO and Country Director, CARE India, in a release.

The book has stories of 22 women and girls, which symbolise empowerment and promise to spark a ray of hope.

President Pranab Mukherjee’s daughter and Kathak danseuse, Sharmistha Mukherjee, who released the book recently said such positive stories of change would bring hope and positivity.

“These are true stories and must inspire us to dream and pursue dreams. These are stories of women who have transformed their lives, of their families and the society around. This resilience symbolises the Indian womanhood,” she added.

aditi.n@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on January 23, 2013)
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