Voluntary organisations should come forward to help the Social Welfare department in taking ahead its initiatives to empower people in rural areas, according to Commissioner for Social Welfare M.P. Nirmala.

Presenting the Probus Award of Excellence to social activist Krishnammal Jagannathan here on Thursday, she recalled that it was Ms.Krishnammal's support that brought about a change in the mindset of 125 Panchayat union leaders in the State.

“At a meeting of the Panchayat Union leaders we were trying to make them and other villagers address issues such as literacy and Dalit rights. However, the leaders were only demanding the power to sign cheques.

Ms.Krishnammal, who was a special invitee to the meeting, said she had helped people in Bihar acquire land for farming without the financial power that the leaders sought,” Ms.Nirmala said.

Two types of slavery

In her acceptance speech, Ms. Jagannathan said women in Vathalagundu area performed two types of slavery – serving an alcoholic husband and the landlord, for whom she worked from dawn to dusk.

“A woman is not an empty box of bones and skin. To awaken the light in a woman it required determination to fight. The 15,000 women in the area did not know anything, and all I did was to sacrifice some sleep and walk a little bit,” she said of her work.

Probus Recognition Awards were presented to Russian language teacher Janaki Krishnan and retired English professor Gomathi Narayanan.

Deputy Director of Russian Centre of Science and Culture Tatiana Perova, President Nominee, Rotary Club of Madras Nandita Krishnan, President of Inner Wheel Club of Madras Anitha Srinath and Probus Club of Chennai President S. Krishna Ram Davey spoke.