Kanavu project ‘drives’ Marayur tribal women’s ‘dreams’ for a better life

The initiative included counselling of the women, convincing chiefs and parents, medical examination of applicants, fund sourcing, and training.
Tribal women in Marayur being imparted driving lessons under the leadership of 
Devikulam MVD officials
Tribal women in Marayur being imparted driving lessons under the leadership of Devikulam MVD officialsPhoto | Express

MARAYUR : ‘Kanavu’ has allowed them to ‘dream’ of a better life. Tribal women of the remote village of Marayur have unearthed newfound mobility, freedom, self-esteem and prosperity, all thanks to a rigorous empowerment project launched by officials of the sub-regional transport office in Devikulam.

Tribal women in Marayur being imparted driving lessons under the leadership of 
Devikulam MVD officials
Tribal women in Kerala to be in the driving seat with launch of ‘Kanavu’ project

Marayur, located in the Devikulam taluk of Idukki, is home to two major tribal groups — the Muthuvans and the Hill Pulayas. Though the Hill Pulayas are relatively progressive, the Muthuvans continue to lead a more secluded life in their forest settlements. In fact, as many as 18 of the 25 settlements in the panchayat are so off the beaten track with only an isolated stretch of winding mud road linking them to the outside world.

The seclusion got to many of the residents, especially the women, who believed they will never have access to a healthy life and better opportunities.

This was relayed to officials of the Devikulam transport office when they visited the settlements as part of the Akshaya Big Campaign for Document Digitisation (ABCD) programme launched by the district administration last March.

“Though our mission was to empower the residents by imparting free two-wheeler driving instructions, a woman named Suganthy, from Alampettikudi, surprised us all by clearing her driving licence test. This got us thinking about expanding the programme to include more women, which shaped the ‘Kanavu’ project, perhaps the first of kind in the state,” Deepu N K, a motor vehicle inspector with the Devikulam office, said.

The initiative included counselling of the women, convincing chiefs and parents, medical examination of applicants, fund sourcing, and training, before finally getting to the actual test. “Despite the herculean tasks, the results have been very rewarding as the department was able to issue driving licences to as many as 41 women in the first year of the project,” he said.

Devi Ponnisami, a widow and mother of two from Nellikkampetty, is one of those driving the change.

‘Kanavu helped me gain confidence, self-esteem’

The 29-year-old’s eyes welled up as she narrated how her husband’s death due to a stomach ailment just five years after their marriage left her and her two daughters devastated.

Devi said the ‘Kanavu’ initiative was like the light at the end of a tunnel.

“It helped me gain confidence and self-esteem. As soon as I move to our newly built house in Kuthukal, I intend to buy a two wheeler so that I can go for work and take better care of my kids,” she adds. Saranya Rajan, another project beneficiary, said she has gained newfound respect.

“When riding a scooter through the settlement, children approach me with great interest, “ she says. Of the 41 women who cleared the test, seven have already bought two wheelers. “Financial issues and poor road connectivity have deterred the others,” says Saranya.

The motor vehicles department has approached a few companies requesting them to contribute to purchasing two wheelers for project participants from their CSR funds. “The financial support will go a long way in further empowering the women,” said Deepu.

The project itself was funded through sponsorships and support from the district Kudumbashree Mission, he added.

Motor vehicle inspectors Fransis S and Chandralal K K; asst motor vehicle inspectors Favas V Salim and Abin Issac, and office staff Pradeep Kumar K P , Haritha K and Rajesh Rajappan are part of the Kanavu team.

Related Stories

No stories found.

X
The New Indian Express
www.newindianexpress.com