R. Agnes Vimala (India)



vimala

 

Vimala is 53 years old, leads the Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum (TNWF) which is a state level forum addressing women’s issues since 1991.

Vimala has studied up to class XII, joined  Society for Rural Education and Development (SRED) as a field worker in 1985.  She attended training programs on gender sensitization, women’s rights, social analysis and dalit rights equipped herself with knowledge and skills to work with oppressed communities.  She was working with landless, dalit and unorganized women addressing their issues.

 

In the year 1991 a 3 year old dalit child was raped by a 23 year old man at Arakkonam.  Local Women’s groups RWLM took the issue had a big demonstration mobilized other women’s organizations and activists address this issue.  The village leaders and the lawyers of the region supported the culprit.  .  In this issue local woman groups who supported to the victim faced many challenges by the village leaders and the perpetrator who are involved in Kaph Panchayat and lawyers who are supporting the case for culprit.   In this situation 50 women groups gathered, protested, united and started TNWF for joint struggle for women and human rights issues and to function with gender sensitization perspectives.

Thus TNWF was born and Vimala started to facilitate the process as a state coordinator.

 

Vimala along with the forum starting mobilizing women groups at district level.  Started training them on Gender, Women’s rights, Legal rights, Political participation of women, through participation in local governance, understanding CEDAW, Violence against women, International treaties and its impact on women, Public speaking skills, writing skills and sustainable agriculture.The Forum’s agenda of strengthening  and capacitating grass root women’s groups stated happening.

 

350 women groups joined the forum and started working on advocacy work. Vimala played a crucial role in facilitating various advocacy processes. The Forum advocated for reservation of women in all political spaces.  They also raised their voice against POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) which led to the arrest of innocent people.

Vimala along with forum worked on food security issue and carried out the survey on efficiency of Public Distribution System (PDS).  The results were presented to the minister of Food which made the minister to send the finding to respective department for action and reform.

The forum held consultation and demonstration to ban Genetically Modified (GM) crops.  Vimala along with the forum coordinated with the Farmers movement protested against the statement in Tamil Nadu budget 2011 which mentioned that fund allocation would be done for the promotion of Bt cotton. The forum effectively lobbied with the Chief Minister under member of Legislative Assembly to withdraw the statement.  Subsequently the statement was withdrawn.

Vimala facilitated the process of “Save Our Rice Campaign”  among farmers to safeguard the traditional rice seeds which was part of the campaign promoted by Pesticide Action Network, Asia and the Pacific.

Vimala constantly engaged in the struggles against convention of agriculture lands in to Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

On behalf of the forum Vimala conducted consultations and sent recommendations to the Verma committee which worked on amendments of the sexual violence act.

The forum has promoted Tamil Nadu Federation for Women Farmer’s Rights which specifically focused on issues of women farmers and fisher women.

Vimala with the forum has been addressing the issues of Violence against women and policy issues affecting women, workers, food security, climate change and sustainable development.  The forum has linkages at state, national and international levels.

Vimala attended various international fora to address issues of women, farmers and sustainable development. She also attended an one year training program on leadership at Japan and started training many women on leadership.

 

The forum is 25 years old and Vimala has a sense of gratification to look at its history and accomplishment.

Vimala is born in a Dalit family (washing community) got married to a man from upper caste faced lot of social exclusion. But she withstood all that and has lead a life of self respect. She has two daughters. The elder one is studying engineering and the younger one is in school. She is determined to give higher education to both her daughters.

Vimala’s journey has been very long who started as a field worker, grown to lead a women’s movement. She has definitely impacted the lives of women here.