“Gritty Village Woman Going Places Against Odds” says the headline of ‘The Hindu’, February 18, 2014.The ‘gritty woman’ is 32 year old, polio-affected mother of two, Neelavathi from E. Avarampatti village of Nilakottai block.
A multi-medal winner for her accomplishments in shot put, discus and javelin throws, she started active participation in sports only in 2008. In less than half a dozen years she bagged more than 30 medals breaking the medal-taking record.
Her journey was tough. Finances were always a constraint and she had to buy her sports gear by taking loans from the Self-Help Group that she is a member of. When she was selected to represent India in the 4th International Athletics Meet, held at Sharjah in Feb 2014, her joy knew no bounds. But how would she finance it? She once again reached out to a government program called Pudhu Vashu Thittam that took care of her expenses.
A Samaj Shilpi, Neelavathi, works for the upliftment of the differently abled, in the Ethilodu panchayat, assisting, organizing and inspiring other differently abled people in her panchayat to pursue their dreams and aspirations in various ways including participating in sports.
Inspired by Neelavathi, Usha Nandini, who is affected by “dwarfism”, participated in the 200 meter race and won a silver medal at the state level. Tavakumar , who studies in the 6th standard, is visually challenged. Even though he has vision in only one eye, he won a gold medal at state level swimming and has been selected for National level. Neelavathi helped him get a scholarship of 4000/year.
Neelavathi has not limited her work to para-athletics. She has organized 105 differently abled people in the panchayat to demand for housing work under MGNREGA and has helped them apply for loans for small livelihood enterprises.
Under Neelavathi’s leadership and after a lot of struggle they were able to get 2 cents of land from the government for housing of 16 people. A petition was submitted collectively for right to 100 days work under MGNREGA for persons with disability. The panchayat has resolved to provide 100 days of work exclusively for the differently abled at Rs 183/- per day.
Neelavathi, has not let her crutches cripple her love for sports or her passion to help her community. She works tirelessly towards helping others like her realize their potential. We salute her enthusiasm.