Shyama Rajagopal

Pravasi Vanita Vedi has become a voice for women working in the Gulf

KOCHI: In the Gulf countries where any association or network of people raising voices is dealt strictly with, there is a network of 128 women, mostly Malayalis, which has become a source of help for women in distress. Many women from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have landed in traps after being promised jobs by racketeers. The network has joined hands to take up issues concerning the Indians.

The GCC (Gulf Cooperative Council) Pravasi Vanita Vedi, active since May 2004, has four chapters including two in Saudi Arabia, one each in Bahrain, Qatar and Oman. A Dubai chapter is also on the cards. There are no landmark events that the Vedi had been able to achieve, but it has become a voice for women working in the Gulf to address their problems.

Most women in our network are nurses, said Sheeba Ramachandran, coordinator of the Vedi. A teacher with the Indian School in Saudi Arabia, Ms. Ramachandran said there are umpteen number of problems faced by people of Indian origin. But, their voices seldom reach these shores. There is no channel through which they can address their problems, she said.

Some women who try to escape from their employers because of harassments, usually end up in Indian schools, said Ms. Ramachandran. Not everybody helps them. But, when we get to know of such an event, we take it up with the Indian Embassy.

It is a shame that with so many Indians in the countries in West Asia, the welfare services promoted by the Government through its office are only namesake, she said. While Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed had announced in one of his speeches that the relatives need not pay the attestation fee for death certificates, in practice it has not been implemented, said Ms. Ramachandran.

Hailing from Vengola, near Perumbavur in Ernakulam, Ms. Ramachandran said that the Vedi cannot publicise its presence but the members keep in touch with each other through Internet. They do not miss an opportunity to present memoranda to the Ministers or members of parliament visiting the Gulf countries, she said.

Minister for Overseas Affairs Vayalar Ravi had given assurance of a welfare fund for NRIs in the budget. But, it has remained mere promise. The recent budget has nothing for the NRIs. A welfare fund for those who have come back home owing to war or other emergencies and a corporation for their rehabilitation and financial aid are among the demands of the Vedi, she said. The network donates blood for accident victims in hospitals. "We donate blood irrespective of nationality," said Ms. Ramachandran. "We are planning to extend the network to take roots in India too, where it can help working women coordinate with Government agencies to address their problems," she said. Women can get in touch with the network at gccpravasivanitavedi