Occupation – Anganwadi teacher
C..P. Padmavathy Amma was briskly sweeping her courtyard when I met her at her residence in a lane opposite the Fort Boys High School in East Fort. It is a little hard to believe that she turns 80 next week. “For the last 50 years and more, I have followed a routine that has changed little. The only time I took a break was when I was hospitalised with cancer. But within two months, I was on my feet, beginning my day at 4 a.m. as usual,” she says.
One of the oldest anganwadi teachers in the city, if not in Kerala, Padmavathy began one of the first programmes in the city that was meant for the betterment of women from socially and economically disadvantaged families.
“It was in 1960. I had just completed the pre-primary teachers’ training programme at Cotton Hill Girls High School. The then headmistress of the school, Dakshayani Amma, was impressed with my work and she suggested that I start off the programme under the auspices of Bharat Sevak Samaj, at a huge colony at Chirakulam, near Statue Junction. Today, it is a place teeming with houses and commercial establishment but that was not the scene then,” she recalls.
Nine months later, she was requested to begin a programme for training pre-primary teachers at the Avittam Tirunal Granthashala at Manacaud. Initially the training was meant for women from Thiruvananthapuram but, gradually, it evolved into a centre for teaching angawadi teachers from all over Kerala.
“I must have trained more than 3,000 women from different places in Kerala. They were taught to prepare pre-schoolers for school. The young women were given classes in nutrition, basic health education and so on. We also began classes in tailoring and craft,” she explains.
In 1971, the Urban Welfare Society was begun at Kochiravila and in 1978 the Community Welfare Centre at Kamaleswaram.
She says that though times have changed with several new-age and other nurseries springing up all over the State, the anganwadis still have their place in society as many working mothers depend on such centres to look after their children.
“Moreover, it has provided a lifeline to many economically disadvantaged women to earn their livelihood,” says the grandmother and great-grandmother who continues to play a pivotal role at the centres at Kamaleswaram and Kochiravila.
In the autumn of her life, Padmavathy says what gives her satisfaction is the fact that she was able to empower and touch the lives of thousands of women.