Pennurimai Iyakkam, an organisation associated with noted women activist Rajalakshmi, organised a condolence meeting on Wednesday. The former professor, who was 80 years old passed away on June 23 after a prolonged illness.
Rajalakshmi worked mainly for the empowerment of women and slum dwellers. While working at Ethiraj College, she was also a central figure in starting a chapter of Association of University Teachers (AUT). She served as the secretary of Pennurimai Iyakkam.
Addressing the gathering, Geetha, advisor, Pennurimai Iyakkam said, “It started in 1978. Rajalakshmi was the prime personality behind the establishment of the organisation. Earlier, we were meant to work against ‘anti-obscenity’ and ‘anti-sexual harassment’. Later it emerged as an organisation that works for empowerment of women with respect to education, economy and society”.
She also added, “She was instrumental in organising awareness meetings over liquor prohibition. It was due to her efforts that the organisation was able to screen many awareness films against the usage of liquor at Shastri Bhavan.”
Saraswathi, a well-known activist and a close ally of Rajalakshmi for more than two decades said, “In the 1970’s, a popular perception that people had was that college teachers lacked social responsibility. In order to break that image, Rajalakshmi made efforts to establish Pennurimai Iyakkam. It provided a platform to many women to vent their anger against social injustice.”
She further noted, “Apart from things such as working for ‘anti-obscenity,’ the main aim for which the organisation fought was for was eliminating the hymen test for women who wished to travel to London for education and employment. As that turned out to be successful, the organisation, under her guidance, decided to work against violence against women in any form and it still continues.”
Advocate S S Vasudevan, who had been the legal advisor of Pennurimai Iyakkam from its early years said, “During her tenure as the secretary of the organisation, many women approached her with domestic problems. Most of the time, women wanted a divorce from their spouses. Even lawyers were ready to take up such cases for hefty fees. But, Rajalakshmi counselled many women and advised them not to approach the court. Instead, she tried to bring an understanding between the parties. Through her counselling sessions, domestic problems of many families were solved.”