‘Beti Padhao’ and ‘Swacha Bharat’ are not mere slogans…

… at least for Dhanaseeli, a Samaj Shilpi who worked in five villages of the Madur panchayat till 2016 in Shanarpatty block in Dindigul District of Tamilnadu.

A post-graduate herself, Dhanaseeli has made it her life’s mission to ensure that no girl drops out of school. Dhanaseeli strongly believes that an educated woman is an empowered woman. She has observed many girls drop out of high school sometimes because of poverty and sometimes because their families do not believing in higher education for girls. No one asks the girls what they want to do, no one pays heed to their aspirations.

A tree in the village is a great place to hold a meeting
A tree in the village is a great place to hold a meeting

Its as if their own wishes and well-being do not matter at all. The girls are sent to some low-end jobs such as a supari factory, a chalk factory or work as agricultural labour. Many girls are also forced into early marriage.
Dhanaseeli counsels parents, especially the mothers, about the importance of educating their daughters. As a result of her unrelenting efforts, 24 girls have enrolled to graduate courses this year alone. In addition, she has secured concessions for 11 students and has got the full tuition fee waivers for three students.

Shilpa (name changed), is one such student helped by Dhanaseeli. Shilpa lost her mother soon after her birth. Her father re-married. The stepmother started ill treating Shilpa and her elder sister, so they shifted to their grandmother’s house. Shilpa’s father also died a few years later. With no earning member, Shilpa’s elder sister was forced to take up a job after school. She saw the potential in Shilpa and supported her in completing her 12th grade. Shilpa scored 986/1000 in Science and wanted to take up engineering. This would have just remained a dream had Dhanseeli not stepped in. Dhanaseeli heard about Shilpa during her village visit and took up the case with ‘Manidan’, a network on Human Rights. A representative of ‘Manidan’ spoke to the management of Shivani college and managed to convince them to waive tuition fees and provide free textbooks for Shilpa. Shilpa has scored more than 90% marks this year. Raji is another student. Raji scored 900+ in her 12th standard and wanted to pursue engineering which her poor parents could not afford. Once again, Dhanasheeli spoke to the management of Shivani College and got her admitted under the Merit quota. She requested for a complete waiver of tuition fees and also requested other free facilities, which the college has agreed for all the four years of Raji’s study.

Dhanaseeli also recognizes that some of the girls would rather learn a vocational skill than enroll for higher education. She plans to enroll such girls in skill development courses. Recently she has enrolled 16 girls in a tailoring course. Dhanaseeli feels that education and skills can be an effective tool to stop child marriages.
‘Swacha’ Madur
“Our village is our responsibility” says Dhanaseeli and her group of volunteers, called Gram Mitras. Working on the complete development of the village is a huge task, but keeping the village clean is something that each one can do. This January 2015 the communities in the five villages of Kallupathi, Madur, Pugaillaipatty, Maniyakaranapatty, Mettupatty, came together and cleaned up the drains and roads of their villages.

Unlocking Government Livelihood Schemes
Dhanaseeli has also guided 13 differently challenged individuals access livelihood schemes worth Rs 2,90,000. These funds are being used by beneficiaries to start different livelihood activities such as a hair-cutting saloon, a petty shop, a production unit of clothes, cow and goat-rearing. She managed to mobilize Rs 84,000 from the panchayat to build cow and goat sheds for 54 families who rear cattle.Working Villages

District: Dindigul ; Block: Shanarpatty ;Panchayat: MadurFunds Raised from Government Schemes
Villages: 1. Kallathupathi – 54 families, from the Kabalathanaicker community,Total Amount : Rs. 3,74,000 No of Beneficiaries: 67
2. Madoor village 76 families – SC, Pariyar & Chetiyar communities 3. Pugailaipatty – 826 families RC Vaniyar Christians, Chettiyars, Sakliyar (native village of Dhanaseeli) 4. Maniyakaranpatty – 80 families Chettiyars and others 5. Mettupatty – 58 families – Pallan (SC) community.

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