In the highland of taboos, sudha weaves her own luck- The New Indian Express

Express News Service

IDUKKI: Being from a traditional Muthuvan tribal society where women’s education and employment remain taboo, customs such as untouchability and menstruation denials are prevalent, Sudhalakshmi’s accomplishments are even more glamorous. It was her hard work and determination that saw the 27-year-old complete her diplomas in Allied Nursing Midwifery (ANM) and Medical Laboratory Technology (DMLT), with good grades in 2016.

But the poor health of her parents prevented her from moving on to a job and their poor financial background made starting a business a distant dream. Although the doors of various departments were knocked for financial assistance, a satisfactory response was not forthcoming. Sudha, as she is popularly known in her community, was never losing heart. She bought an old sewing machine for next to nothing and mastered sewing by watching the video tutorials. Now with her dreams of a job on hold, Sudha sews clothes for numerous clients from both inside and outside the settlement.

“Most of the girls in our society are educated up to the 10th grade,” says Sudha. “Continuing schooling is a real struggle because of the stigma attached to it, which is exacerbated by unequal gender norms.” Her parents were cooperative and supported her dream of higher education. After an ANM course from a private college in Adimali, Sudha went on to complete her DMLT from Tamil Nadu.

Job offers followed, but from remote locations. Sudha could not bear to be away from her father, Sivaraj, who was paralyzed from the waist down, and her mother, who had lifestyle-related ailments, and worked in a private hospital in the neighboring city of Marayoor, for which she paid 2,000 Indian rupees. Month. After an accident, six months into the new job, I decided to quit.

“The realization that I could not continue in the profession for which I was qualified made me consider starting a business.” Despite the official indifference, Sudha opens a joint service center in Kanthalloor in 2020 with the help of some acquaintances and from her own funds. However, Covid affected the business and Sudha closed the project in 2021, unable to pay the monthly room rent. That’s when I was taken to sewing. “I manage to earn about 5,000 rupees every month,” she said.

The sewing machine is now in bad shape and Sudha hopes it will last until it stops working. “I am looking at all options for financial support. But there is no ray of hope on the horizon,” she says, sounding dejected.

When contacted, Marawior tribal extension officer Julie BM said the ministry was providing photocopiers to interested tribes as a means of self-employment under the Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP). “But no new applications are being invited at this time,” she said. Julie said that although the department has a provision for providing financial assistance of less than Rs 1 lakh to individual tribes, in Sudhalakshmi’s case, she is educated and holds a diploma in nursing. “Her name is among the educated tribal women who are considered for occupying privileged positions in the settlements themselves. This list has been forwarded to the Minister for Castes/Strategic Tribes,” Jolie added.