Women for social action

IF YOU thought that commitment to duties attached to one's position belonged to a different period, the staff of the Women's Voluntary Service (WVS) of Tamil Nadu would come across as a pleasant anachronism.

"All our staff members are more than willing to spend their off-hours in the service of the organisation," says Mano Bakthavatsalam, honorary secretary, WVS, Tamil Nadu.

The organisation came to be in 1972 when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi "set up the All-India Women's Voluntary Service (AIWVC) to mobilise women for social action". Indira Gandhi said: "I am not a feminist and do not believe that anybody should get preferential treatment merely because she happens to be a woman. But I do believe that the challenge, before not of India, but of the whole world, is the crisis of civilisation today and it is too vast for us to ignore the talent and the capabilities of half the population who have distinctive contribution to make and we should try and find out what it is and enable them to give their best."

Indira Gandhi, who was the director-general of AIWVC, set up WVCs in all the States. "Today, all the WVCs, except the one in Tamil Nadu, have folded up," says Mano Bakthavatsalam.

The WVS in Tamil Nadu has an impressive track record. Over 75,000 women have benefited from Adult Education Project, over 22,000 women from the post-literacy and follow-up projects, and 50,000 men and women from the 31 Jana Shiksha Nilayam (reading centres). Nearly 5,000 disabled have been provided with mobility aids and appliances, nearly 9,000 children have been covered by polio and DPT immunisation and anti-cholera inoculation programmes and over 17,000 women have been provided leadership training.

Other activities include training for girls in information technology, typing, stenography, tailoring, music and dance, scholarships for students, non-formal education centres for children, inter-caste community marriages, distribution of tailoring machines, cash allowance for destitute women, assistance to victims of natural calamities and running of cr�ches and working women's hostels.

P. Uma Rao, wife of the Governor of Tamil Nadu, P. Ramamohan Rao, is the director of WVS, and Sarojini Varadappan, its assistant director.

On December 30, WVS will be celebrating its 30th anniversary at its premises (Old no. 19, new no. 6, Mayor V. R. Ramanathan Road, Chetpet.)

On the occasion, scholarships to 65 college students, cash assistance for four destitute women, uniform for schoolchildren and aids and appliances for six handicapped persons will be given away.

Justice S. Mohan will be the chief guest. The State Commissioner for the Disabled, Mohan Verghese Chunkath, will grace the occasion.

For more details, call 826425/8237434.