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PERSONALITY

Fight against poverty



For her leadership: Jaya Arunachalam receiving the award.

VITAL VOICES, a U.S.-based non-profit organisation, recently presented the 2005 Annual Global Leadership Award for Economic Development to Jaya Arunachalam, president of the Working Women's Forum (India). There were three other awardees from Morocco, Cambodia and Ukraine.

The Washington Post, reporting on the event, noted that she had identified the potential of under-privileged women to make a living as street vendors, washerwomen, food hawkers, handicraft producers and silkworm breeders.

Support for women

Jaya Arunachalam launched the Working Women's Forum (India) in 1978 after she discovered that, in the years following independence, those constitutionally entrusted with power had become indifferent to the sufferings and the needs of the have-nots. The Working Women's Forum has grown into a movement of over 700,000 women drawn from the poorest sections of three Southern states: Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and looks at not just rescuing women from poverty but also in giving them dignity, self-reliance and integrity.

Jaya Arunachalam has also initiated two other units as support systems to the Forum: Indian Cooperative Network for Women Ltd., an informal banking system to help the poor and the National Union of Working Women, a trade union to achieve their objectives. These cooperatives have facilitated the growth of leadership and self-governance among women from the poorer sections of society. The women help management in selection, guarantee and supervision of those applying for loans. The Working Women's Forum has been accredited by UNCED as an NGO.

Jaya Arunachalam was the first South Asian woman to be elected to the Governing Council of the Society for International Development, Rome. She was conferred the "International Activist Award of 2003" by the Gliestman Foundation, California, for her contribution to poverty eradication for over quarter century. She also received the Rashtriya Ekta Award from the National Awareness Forum (India) in August 2004 and the Padma Shri in 1987.

D. VENKATESAN

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