These Chennai-based women inspire us to make the world a better place
This Women’s Day, Indulge looks at four social projects by women from Chennai that are making a difference to the world around them in their own significant ways…
Dr Vandana Gopikumar & Vaishnavi Jayakumar,
The Banyan and The Banyan Academy
The Banyan is a non-governmental organization based in Chennai, founded in 1993 by Vandana and Vaishnavi to cater to the mentally ill and homeless women in the city. “Being women to us means being part of a movement that promotes humanism, justice and equity; one that’s able to build a society that’s connected and empathic. We are an inclusive world only when we all rise together. Therefore, through the work of the Banyan, over three decades – with persons who live on the fringes, homeless, often abused, and with mental health issues, we have doggedly and passionately challenged structural barriers, alienating ill constructed stereotypes and social constructs that disempower and segregate. Through our chapters in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Maharashtra; we’ve serviced 1 million low income households, from whom we have learnt what it means to be gritty and persistent. This year we look to inspire vitality and greater workforce participation by initiating social enterprises – home based wellness services, an eclectic café, a local tourism enterprise – all anchored by persons with psychosocial disabilities. Angel investors, here’s your chance to find the feminine in you – rise and help rise!” shares Vandana.
Support them at www.thebanyan.org/donate
Dominique Lopez & Priyanjoli Basu
Started in 2019, Oh Scrap! was founded by Dominique Lopez and Priyanjoli Basu as an initiative to reduce fabric scraps from clogging landfills and encouraging sustainability. In fact, during the lockdown the duo had our attention as they had made masks – from fabric scraps collected – for the marginalised. We also loved their Christmas decorations, and the colourful buntings that graced many festive trees in the city. “We primarily collect scraps that will be otherwise discarded – from textile factories and even homes – and up cycled the materials or donated them,” informs Dominique who further adds that their team is all-women barring one male tailor – and that they hope to not just change the attitude towards waste but also towards providing livelihood for women.
Check them out at @ohscrapmadras on Instagram.
Dr Aiswarya Rao,
The Better World Shelter
The Better World Shelter was opened in 2016 to bridge a gap in services and safe spaces for young women with disabilities who come to Chennai in need of work, education, sports, companionship and marriage – in short it is a haven for women looking for making a better life for themselves. “As a woman with a disability, I have had access to resources and opportunities which many women are denied. This breaks my heart. As a child I always dreamt that I would give polio drops for all children born in India until there was no more polio. This shelter in many ways is a promise to myself to make that dream come true. The shelter needs resources for better infrastructure – modern yet utterly necessary to make life easy for women – to have a bath, or wash their clothes or cook their own food. In short: modern amenities,” shares Aiswarya.
Write to her at, firstname.lastname@example.org
Muththamizh Kalai Vizhi,
Neelam, a non-profit organisation was founded in 2014 in Chennai by like-minded individuals who believe that a society can be free of exploitation, injustice and oppression only when everyone is aware of their situation as well as their rights; where everyone is able to reclaim their suppressed voice and is empowered. As a part of Neelam’s projects, art-based training is provided for children from marginalized communities in Tamil Nadu. “Our aim is to reach deserving kids from marginalized communities. Every year Neelam, as an organisation, gathers children from the ‘Neelam Educational Centres’ from various places and organises a summer camp that aims at bringing out the hidden talents of marginalized children longing for opportunities and recognition. This year children between the age group of 6-16 will be participating in the camp which is proposed for the month of May 2021. We are looking for supporters who can help us by contributing little amounts towards the overall camp budget. Even a small contribution will go a long way,” explains Muththamizh.
Write to her at, email@example.com