Started for women to interact with each other, the Valasaravakkam Women’s Club now takes charge of all civic problems in the neighbourhood, says K. Sarumathi
These women did not know how to kill time when they moved into the locality over 35 years ago. Today, they are extremely busy, working round-the-clock taking up some issue plaguing the neighbourhood.
When it was founded by Lalitha Krishnan in 1979, the Valasaravakkam Women’s Club had just one agenda: to enable friendly interaction between women living in the area. “There were only studios here with a few residential houses scattered along the stretches. We did not have anyone to call a ‘neighbour.’ To get the women together, I started this club with 14 members from Chowdry Nagar and Suresh Nagar. The unique thing about the group was that we came from different States speaking different languages. There were Bengalis, Gujaratis, Hindi-speaking women and many others from the southern States. Going beyond mere get-togethers, we decided to make the meetings meaningful. We learnt languages and arts from each other and then taught it to the less-privileged living in the slums nearby,” says Lailtha.
They slowly started taking responsibility for the civic problems in the neighbourhood and made representations to the panchayat for getting roads laid and lights installed. “We had to travel far for paying our electricity bills and buying ration. Collaborating with other associations we got both for the residents,” she adds. They were also instrumental in getting buses to stop at Keshavardini by making a request to the bus passengers’ association.
Taking charge of garbage clearance, they employed a person to collect it from every doorstep. “There was a lot of garbage pile-up in the area and no one would clear it. We collected funds from every household and invested in a tri-cycle and got a man to collect the household waste. We were doing it till the Corporation took charge recently,” says Lalitha. For women, they arranged yoga classes, taught spoken English and also provided a tutor for learning how to drive a two-wheeler. “We conduct yearly sports meet for women to encourage them to be physically fit. We also take classes for women slum dwellers in basic Tamil and maths. Every alternate day, tailoring classes are held,” says Janaki, the current president of the 100-member strong club.
The women also run three Anaganwadis, which get around 90 children. “The food is hygienically prepared and we have a dedicated team taking care of the kids. We conduct a medical check-up once in three months and ensure each child becomes school-ready. We also adopt poor school children and have been funding their education,” she adds. This apart, they conduct regular health camps for residents of the area. The members also volunteer at the Cancer Institute.