CHENNAI: One of the pioneers in women’s empowerment initiatives in post-Independent India and former vice president of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee (TNCC), Dr Jaya Arunachalam, passed away here on Saturday after a brief illness. She was 87.
Founder of the Working Women’s Forum (WWF) and a significant contributor to the women’s self-help group movement, Dr Jaya Arunachalam is best known for her social service contributions through WWF which she initiated in 1978., “to develop the total human resource potential of very poor women workers in the informal sector.”
A graduate in Economics and Geography, Dr Jaya Arunachalam has a diploma in Management from Washington, USA. She was also the president of the National Union of Working Women, a grassroots trade union of poor working class women in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. She “unionized” women vendors, hawkers, fisherwomen, silk weavers, agarbathi workers among others. She also specially evolved the ‘Indian Cooperative Network for Women’, as an informal banking system to suit the needs of poor women, according to the WWF.
Winner of several awards, Dr Jaya Arunachalam was the recipient of ‘Padmasri’ in 1987, the Jamnalal Bajaj Award, 2009, Bharat Ratna Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Shakthi Award, 2009, and Social Lifetime Achievement Award from Godfrey Philips India in the year 2010. She was awarded the honorary doctorate from the University of Lueneburg (Germany) in 1999 for “her exemplary work among the poorest women in India.”
Dr Arunachalam had also served on various committees related to women’s welfare and development, constituted by the Union Labour ministry and Health and Family Welfare ministry among others. She was the first South Asian woman member to be elected to the Governing Council of the Society for International Development, Rome. She was also a member of the Inter-ministerial Conference on Women and Children to Philippines in the year 1994.
The TNCC president, K S Azhagiri, expressed profound grief at her passing away and recalled Dr Arunachalam’s multifarious contributions to women’s development. Another noted Congress functionary C R Kesavan in a condolence message said as founder of the Working Women’s Forum, she was a source of inspiration and encouragement....